Why is the Federal Vision Heresy?

This post inevitably will condense some discussion that might be better expanded. It has been expanded elsewhere, as in The Auburn Avenue Theology: Pros and Cons, which is the single best resource on the whole issue, since you can see the theology in actual debate. What I am going to do here is list some reasons why the Federal Vision is heretical, and utterly to be abhorred. It should be noted that not all FV advocates hold to all these points. It is not a monolithic movement. Therefore, some of these points will apply to some and not to others. However, all of these points are held by some FV proponent or other.

  • The first reason why the FV is heretical is that it makes no ontological differentiation in the church between those who are hypocrites and those who are saved. FV advocates will make claims that look like this: “the only difference between hypocrites and non-hypocrites is that the non-hypocrites will persevere.” This is clear from some of Steve Wilkins’s statements: “Because being in covenant with God means being in Christ, those who are in covenant have all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places. Union with Christ means that all that is true of Christ is true of us.” Now, by itself, this statement is not really objectionable. However, the way in which he connects this with “covenantal election” is highly problematic: “The elect are those who are faithful in Christ Jesus. If they later reject the Savior, they are no longer elect- they are cut off from the Elect One and thus, lose their elect standing. But their falling away doesn’t negate the reality of their standing prior to their apostasy. They were really and truly the elect of God because of their relationship with Christ.” Both quotes taken from Federal Vision, pg. 58. He is using “election” here in the covenantal sense of being elected to the covenant. FV proponents will claim that this use of the term in no way contradicts the decretal use of the term as used in the WCF, for instance. However, there is no doubt that Steve Wilkins, for one, is claiming real salvific benefits of being united to Christ for people who will eventually apostatize. In fact, he lists on page 59 all the saving benefits that future apostates have as long as they are united to Christ in covenant. What FV proponents have done is to develop a new set of terms that describe saving benefits of being united to Christ by covenant. These benefits, however, include benefits that are normally described as being part of the ordo salutis. Wilkins includes sanctification, sharing in the righteousness of Christ (meaning justification, as is clarified later on down the page), and redemption. He makes his position even clearer on page 61, where he says this: “Thus, when one breaks covenant, it can be truly said that he has turned away from grace and forfeited life, forgiveness, and salvation.” Here is what the WCF says: “Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.” The decretal sense of election is here in view in the WCF, and it explicitly says that they *only* receive any saving benefits. What the FV has to do is invent a whole new vocabulary for every saving benefit so that there are two justifications, two sanctifications, two elections, two redemptions, one covenantal and one decretal. However, they inevitably confuse the one set of terms with the other, and have not distinguished at all the two different senses of justification, sanctification, redemption, etc.
  • The FV denies the distinction between the visible and invisible church. Admittedly, they have John Murray for a precedent here. So much the worse for John Murray. This distinction between visible and invisible is confessional, and, more importantly, Scriptural. I have no wish to deny that many Scriptures speak of the church as visible as being the church. Such passages are utterly and completely irrelevant as to whether the Scripture also speaks of the church as invisible. Acts 2:41, Galatians 2:4, 1 John 2:19, Romans 2:28-29, Romans 9:6, John 10:26-27 do abundantly prove that, in addition to the definition of church as including both the elect and the reprobate, there is another definition of “church” that means only the elect. Let me repeat carefully the argument, because many will quote at me passages that prove that the church consists of anyone who is baptized. I freely admit that that is one definition of the word “church.” But that is not the only way the word is used, or, more precisely, the idea. The passages cited above prove that there is another way of speaking about church that is simply in terms of the eternally elect who will never fall away. The historical considerations are vitally important here, by the way. The Roman Catholic Church accused the Reformers of not having a church for the many centuries before the Reformation. What was the Reformers’ answer? The visible/invisible church distinction. We cannot define the church solely in terms of what is visible, or else we have no leg upon which to stand, for the Reformers did not claim continuity with Medieval Catholicism, but with the early church. How is it that they are the true church? Because they have always been the true invisible church, though they were not always visible as the church. You get rid of the visible/invisible church distinction, then you cut the leg out from under the entire Reformation. I am indebted to Wes White for these arguments. I will post more later on the reasons why the FV is heretical. This is a start.
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248 Comments

  1. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 1:12 pm

    But does the Bible only attribute sanctificaation to the eternally elect, or is there a broader, biblical use of the term?

    Hebrews 10:29: “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?”

  2. November 30, 2006 at 1:16 pm

    Even more alarming to me than this is the denial of the covenant of works (Monocovenatalism). Through their rejection of this covenant with Adam, it negates the active obedience of Christ (the second Adam) to fulfill the law and satisfy the justice of God on behalf of the sinner. This is a direct attack on the person and work of Christ Himself.

  3. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 1:31 pm

    Yes, David. I will post more on that later.

    Todd, I just love the way you lose the forest for the trees. You pick a teeny detail of my argument to pounce on, and then think you’ve refuted the whole thing. I’d be willing to wager any amount of money that you have not even looked up the passages I cited in favor of the invisible church definition, though being absolutely essential in the argument. To use one of your favorite terms, you are on the wrong level of discourse.

    But to answer what you said, the Bible does use the term “sanctify” in various ways. However, the FV *never* qualifies which sense of justification, sanctification, union with Christ, etc. they mean when they say that all the benefits of union with Christ accrue to the believer. They don’t say “covenantal justification” when they say “covenantal election.” Just look at page 59 of Federal Vision and show me where it makes the distinction between ordo salutis justification, for instance, and “covenantal justification.” Where in the Bible does it ever say that we can lose “any” definition of justification????

  4. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    “The FV *never* qualifies which sense of justification, sanctification, union with Christ, etc. they mean when they say that all the benefits of union with Christ accrue to the believer.”

    This kind of reasoing would require the writer of Hebrews to be more careful in the way he’s throwing around the word “sanctified.” Why didn’t he make the qualifications you demand? Is he being sloppy? Heretical?

    Perhaps you’ll allow us to talk about the Hebrews verse for a while, rather than switching to justification.

  5. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 1:37 pm

    I would also encourage you, Lane, to lose the sarcasm. Let’s discuss this stuff like men, instead of third graders.

  6. November 30, 2006 at 1:47 pm

    Concerning your first point, I don’t think Wilkins would deny he believes a person can be in a saving union with Christ (the vine and branches) and then be cut-off and lose their salvation. What I can’t get around is their assertion is that in a final decretal sense the person was never to be saved in the first place. Doesn’t this mirror an Ariminian view of salvation and suggest that Christ losses some for whom He died?

  7. hello said,

    November 30, 2006 at 1:53 pm

    Mr. Baggins,
    For some reason, reading your article reminds me of what Chesterton said: “The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head the splits.”
    Orthodoxy, p.22.

  8. markhorne said,

    November 30, 2006 at 1:56 pm

    1. Your assertions about “FV” are false.

    2. If your assertions were true they would not entail that “FV” is heretical.

    3. Wilkins, like me, and everyone else, believes and consistently preaches every petal of Tulip and is a convinced monergistist who believes God unconditionally foreordains whatsoever comes to pass. If you’re not willing to stipulate this up front, then I have no reason to trust anything you say.

  9. markhorne said,

    November 30, 2006 at 2:06 pm

    Ugh. Except there is no such thins as a “monergistist.” Monergist Sorry for the stutter.

  10. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 2:32 pm

    Mark, the reason I’m not willing to stipulate this up front is that not every FV proponent *consistently* believes in TULIP. It doesn’t matter whether Steve says so on his church’s website, which I have read many times. His writings are not consistent with it. You may be consistent, Mark, on TULIP, but Steve, at least, is not. Mark, saying so doesn’t make it so. You can hardly expect me to give any credence at all to such one-liners that have absolutely zero interaction with what I said.

    BOQ But to answer what you said, the Bible does use the term “sanctify” in various ways. EOQ Todd, this wasn’t commenting on Scripture? Or that verse? Why don’t you interact with what I said, rather than with what you think I needed to say. And by the way, no sarcasm was present. I was being perfectly serious. If you think I was speaking like a third-grader (when, in fact, what I said was true), then that’s your prerogative. But this is my blog.

  11. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 2:32 pm

    Mr. Hello, I do not allow anonymous comments on this blog. Please tell us your name when you comment.

  12. November 30, 2006 at 2:43 pm

    I’m sorry Lane, but I had to laugh when Mr. “greenbaggins” told Mr. “Hello” he doesn’t allow anonymous comments.

  13. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 2:50 pm

    It is ironic, although, if you look at my about page, you can find out my name.

  14. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 2:56 pm

    “Todd, I just love the way you lose the forest for the trees.” This wasn’t sarcastic? Perfectly serious?

    To the point: The writer of Hebrews says that apostate church members had been sanctified by the blood of the covenant. Right? FV guys have not invented new vocabulary. You are having a hard time accounting for the way the Bible uses its own vocabulary.

  15. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 3:09 pm

    Is Calvin guilty of the same things, Lane?

    “Now then it is of God’s free election that we have his Word purely preached unto us and that we have his Gospel and Sacraments. And therein we have reason to confess that he has shown himself generous to us…So then, when the Gospel is preached in a place and it has the warrants that God gives men salvation – as when we have Baptism and the Lord’s Holy Supper ministered uncorruptly – we may say it is an election of God. But yet for all that, in the meantime he holds to himself those he so wishes in order that people should not trust the outward signs except by faith and obedience, knowing that although we have been chosen to be of the Body of the Church, yet if we do not make that election to our profit, God can well enough cut us off again and reserve a final number to himself.” (Sermons on Deuteronomy, Sermon 53, Saturday, 3 August 1555).

  16. pduggie said,

    November 30, 2006 at 3:15 pm

    When you say that Wilkin’s perspective on covenantal election is utterly heretical and to be abohorred, do you distinguish it in any way from the common view of Lutherans that there are those who are saved by faith in Christ, but then can apostasize from that faith and be damned, or that there is an objective justifation of everyone, which those with faith then participate in subjectively?

    Do I need to abhor lutherans?

  17. pduggie said,

    November 30, 2006 at 3:19 pm

    “However, they inevitably confuse the one set of terms with the other, and have not distinguished at all the two different senses of justification, sanctification, redemption, etc.”

    That’s totally bogus, Lane.

    Evidence that 1) terms are confused 2) this confusion is inevitable 3) no distinction “at all” between the senses? Where?

  18. pduggie said,

    November 30, 2006 at 3:25 pm

    Ontological difference? Huh?

    People who are saved are sinners who have received a declaration that they are righteous because of the work of Christ imputed to them. It doesn’t change their ontology. That’s the roman catholic view that you need grace infused into your soul, no?

    I continue to be disgusted by the way all kinds of loosy-goosey new theology is made up out of whole cloth just to bash the FV with. (Jeff Hutchison deciding that a man under discipline gets just as much of the special presence of christ by sitting back and oberving communion as someone participating in faith, all to avoid the idea that the sacraments are efficacious!! You guys are making it up as you go along)

  19. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 3:26 pm

    To answer Todd first, Hebrews 10:29 is talking about the profession of faith that a future apostate makes. He claims to be sanctified by the blood of Christ. But by treating that blood as common, he thereby denies his own claim to be truly sanctified. This is not necessarily talking about a “covenantal sanctification.” The very nature of a hypocrite is someone who claims what is false. Obviously, someone claims that he has been sanctified, but he belies that claim by his treating as common what is really sacred.

    Calvin is not guilty, because Calvin isn’t even beginning to say the same things that FV proponents say. Calvin isn’t saying that this “election” gives us all the benefits of being in Christ, as Wilkins says. He would certainly not say that justification comes merely by virtue of being part of the church, again as Wilkins says. He ascribes zero ordo salutis benefits to this supposed election, as Wilkins does. Not the same thing in the slightest, Todd.

    Paul, which Lutheran Confession are you quoting? I’m not questioning that some Lutheran or other (or a group) has said these things. But what confession says it?

  20. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 3:30 pm

    Paul, you haven’t answered anything except by assertion about my argument about what Wilkins says on pages 57-59 of Federal Vision. Point 1. Wilkins says that the elect are those who are faithful in Christ Jesus (pg. 58). Point 2. He says that those who are in covenant have all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places. Point 3. He says that those blessings include justification (bullet point 13 on page 59). Point 4. He says that when one breaks covenant, it can be truly said that he has turned away from grace and forfeited life, forgiveness, and salvation (pg. 61). Therefore, the conclusion is that Wilkins says one can lose justification. Try finding any definition of justification in Scripture that is “covenantal” as opposed to decretal. You’re the one with bogus arguments, Paul.

  21. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 3:39 pm

    “Hebrews 10:29 is talking about the profession of faith that a future apostate makes. He claims to be sanctified by the blood of Christ. But by treating that blood as common, he thereby denies his own claim to be truly sanctified.”

    Pure assertion, no exegesis. This passage says nothing of the kind. There is not even a hint that anyone is claiming to be sanctified. It’s not about profession. Your treatment is eisegesis. You’re twisting the Scriptures to fit your version of the system.

    Here’s what it actually says: Hebrews 10:29: “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?”

  22. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 3:42 pm

    The text says, in effect, that this person is a hypocrite. They went on sinning deliberately after receiving a knowledge of the truth. Then it talks about witnesses in verse 28. What are the witnesses saying? Obviously something different from what the hypocrite is saying. Then there is the contrast between the hypocrite, who is eventually exposed, and the truly converted, who are temporarily exposed to public reproach (vs. 33). Actually, textually, there is good warrant for my exegesis. It’s you who want to force this text to say something that it doesn’t say.

  23. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 3:49 pm

    The ontological distinction is between those who have received the new birth and those who have not. Regeneration means a new heart. It is separate and distinct from justification. The declarative nature of justification is a distinct, yet inseparable benefit from sanctification. This is Calvin’s duplex gratia, and is ABC Reformed theology, Paul. Don’t think I don’t know what I’m talking about. The Roman view is that the grace given in *justification* is infused. All Reformed theologians agree that grace is infused in sanctification, which has as its fountainhead regeneration. You’re clinging to straws to defend Steve Wilkins. But I guess the SJC will have the last word on that…

  24. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 3:50 pm

    In your view, had these apostates been sanctified by the blood of the covenant? In any sense?

  25. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 3:51 pm

    In name only.

  26. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:02 pm

    I wonder why the writer didn’t say anything like that, then. He could have been so much more clear. He’s more confusing than Wilkins! At least we know where to lay the blame now. Not Wilkins. Not Jordan. Not even Murray.

  27. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:03 pm

    He said it in the context. You haven’t answered this yet, Todd. More substance, please.

  28. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:05 pm

    More seriously, this is exactly where your criticisms of the FV seem to fall flat. You can’t account for the way the Bible actually uses words. Your rules for the use of theological terms are narrower than the Bible’s. The FV might be wrong. It might even be heretical. But your criticisms are unconvnicing to the extent that you fail to take the actual language of the Bible seriously.

  29. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:08 pm

    And Todd, if that is the only verse (and we can see that it is disputed), where does Steve get all the rest of these covenantal-but-not-decretal-and-therefore-losable benefits? What happened to Romans 8: 29-30? The elect and the elect ****ONLY**** receive saving benefits, according to WCF 3.6, which says this: “Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.”

  30. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:08 pm

    The context does not take anything away from the way he uses the word “sanctified.” “He was sanctifed.” Not “claimed to be sanctified.” Not “sanctified in name.” You have inserted words, and not from the context.

  31. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:09 pm

    It is you who are not accounting for the WCF. I explained the passage just fine. Again, you haven’t answered my contextual arguments at all. When, pray, do you plan on doing that with anything other than “that doesn’t work?”

  32. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:09 pm

    He’s a hypocrite in heb 10

  33. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:10 pm

    It’s hardly the only verse. It’s just a quickie.

  34. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:11 pm

    My understanding of the context puts quotation marks around the word “sanctified.” That’s my exegesis, not inserting any words whatsoever, and paying careful attention to the context. Oh by the way, I didn’t even mention John Owen’s possibility, which is that it is Jesus who is the one sanctified. Check it out.

  35. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:12 pm

    If that’s not the only verse, then please try to answer the rest of my original post, looking up the Scriptural references proving that there is such a distinction as the visible/invisible church.

  36. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:13 pm

    Of course he’s a hypocrite. But the writer says he was sanctified by the blood of the covenant, the same blood he profand through his hyposcrisy.

    “I explained the passage just fine.” I guess we can let your readers decide whether this is true.

  37. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:15 pm

    No thanks, man. I’m quite happy with the way WCF talks about visible and invisible church. I was only addressing your first point.

  38. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:18 pm

    Well, then, what about the other salvific benefits that Steve Wilkins claims for covenant-elected believers? Would you not admit that he does not clarify whether he is using the terms of “justification,” “adoption,” etc. contrary to the way in which WCF 3.6?

  39. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:20 pm

    Of course he’s using these terms in ways that WCF does not. That is clearly obvious. But so is the Bible! Why would Wilkins have to clarify?

  40. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:21 pm

    Justification is *******NEVER******* used in a way different from the WCF, and I will die on this one, Todd.

  41. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:21 pm

    There is ***NO*** “covenantal justification” that one can lose later on. Never does the Bible speak this way, which is thoroughly Arminian.

  42. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:25 pm

    Getting noisy in here. Why shout? My only claim is about sanctification in Hebrews 10:29. I have a very modest aim. Just the one verse.

  43. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:28 pm

    So you will refuse to interact with the justification issue? Why do you go so far to defend Steve Wilkins, when he is so obviously wrong? Just admit that he is wrong here. I would even be content with “imbalanced.”

    The reason it’s getting noisy in here is because the Reformers died for this one, literally, and now it’s getting trampled on, and I, for one, will not let the Reformation heritage go without fighting for it with every ounce of my being. The Reformation blood that sanctified Steve Wilkins (according to his own claim) is being spit on by him, and treated as a common thing that is losable. Not on my watch.

  44. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:32 pm

    Want to make a deal? Will you just admit a covenantal sanctification in Hebrews 10:29?

  45. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:39 pm

    Deal? What deal? Why should I compromise what I believe about the exegesis of that verse so that you can admit that SW is wrong, which is patently obvious? I think you would get the better end of that deal. Theology doesn’t work in compromise, Todd. Really, Todd you make me laugh. It’s funny. I think the real reason you won’t defend SW on the other points is quite simple: you already know that he is wrong. You are looking for a graceful way to say it, I think, that “saves face.” It is no shame, Todd, to admit that someone else is wrong (or that your opinion has changed). I have done it before. I would rejoice rather than gloat.

  46. pduggie said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:43 pm

    So before we can be declared righteous by God (justification) we have to have an infusion of grace in our souls to make us qualfied to be justified? Is that what you’re saying?

  47. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:44 pm

    It’s mutual then, Lane. You make me laugh.

  48. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:46 pm

    No, that is not what I’m saying at all. When we are united to Christ by faith, we are *simultaneously* declared righteous *and* given a new heart in regeneration, which then leads immediately to the life-long process of sanctification. They are distinct, yet inseparable, those great watchwords of the Reformed faith. The infusion of grace has absolutely nothing to do with justification. Rather it has everything to do with regeneration and sanctification.

  49. pduggie said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:46 pm

    I’m can’t find a traditional confession by I found this

    http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/mosynod/web/just-01.html#jst-5

    23. By “objective” or “universal” justification one means that God has declared the whole world to be righteous for Christ’s sake and that righteousness has thus been procured for all people. It is objective because this was God’s unilateral act prior to and in no way dependent upon man’s response to it, and universal because all human beings are embraced by this verdict. God has acquired the forgiveness of sins for all people by declaring that the world for Christ’s sake has been forgiven. The acquiring of forgiveness is the pronouncement of forgiveness. (Rom. 3:24; 4:25; 5:19; 2 Cor. 5:19-21; Ap IV, 40-41; SA II, i, 1-3; FC Ep V, 5; FC SD XI, 15)

    It is contrary to Scripture and the pure Gospel to teach:

    That God’s acquisition and establishment of forgiveness in objective justification is a conditional verdict, depending on faith or any other human response or activity;

    That it is not Biblical to speak of “objective justification.”

  50. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:46 pm

    Well, Todd, at least there’s something funny about this whole thing. ;-)

  51. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    Well, Paul, that’s obviously wrong. But I don’t know that the orthodox Lutherans would hold to such a view.

  52. pduggie said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    more lutheran nonsense “the lack of faith does cause damnation; i.e., without faith the redeemed sinner to whom God is reconciled does not have the righteousness of Christ or any of the benefits of His work of obedience, but is condemned by God and lost eternally.”

  53. pduggie said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:49 pm

    Thats the LCMS from 1983

  54. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:49 pm

    Good grief, where did you dig up that double-speak? I can’t imagine Luther holding to such a view!

  55. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:50 pm

    “When we are united to Christ by faith, we are *simultaneously* declared righteous *and* given a new heart in regeneration.”

    Faith (logically) precedes regeneration in your ordo here, Lane.

  56. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:50 pm

    Really???

  57. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:52 pm

    Actually, Todd, the way I would put it is that faith and regeneration are simultaneous. The instant that God regenerates us, we become believers, we have faith. I certainly do not hold that faith precedes regeneration.

  58. November 30, 2006 at 4:56 pm

    I just re-read the AAPC position paper. It has been greatly revised since a couple of years ago. Concerning Heb. 10:29 it reads,

    “Those who “believe for a while” enjoy blessings and privileges of the covenant only for a time and only in part, since their temporary faith is not true to Christ, as evidenced by its eventual failure and lack of fruit (1 Cor. 10:1ff; Hebrews 6:4-6). By their unbelief they “trample underfoot the Son of God, count the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified an unholy thing, and do despite to the Spirit of grace” (Heb. 10:29) and thus bring greater condemnation upon themselves.”

    ~ They used to say that baptized individuals receive the “all” the benefits of Christ, including regeneration, and that some of those fully and finally fall away. They seem to have toned down quite a bit from those days.

  59. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:58 pm

    First you said this:

    “When we are united to Christ by faith, we are *simultaneously* declared righteous *and* given a new heart in regeneration”

    Then you said this:

    “The instant that God regenerates us, we become believers, we have faith.”

    Some might see a contradiction here.

  60. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:58 pm

    What I want to know is whether Steve Wilkins has retracted any of the outrageously un-Reformed published material in the book _Federal Vision_. Because the way the AAPC statement read before is what is in the Federal Vision book, not what it says now.

  61. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 4:59 pm

    I said, “When we are united to faith.” That means “at that time-point,” doesn’t it? then later I said that regeneration and faith are simultaneous. Same thing.

  62. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 5:00 pm

    Besides, it’s not my theology that we are examining here, but that of the FV. Will you or won’t you admit that SW is wrong when he ascribes justification to the status which is possible to lose?

  63. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 5:14 pm

    The FV position, if there is such a thing, on covenantal justification is an attempt to deal with the fact that sometimes Paul tells everyone in a local church that they have been justified, without qualifications or distinctions. The clear and popular example, of course, is 1 Corinthians 6:11: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

    I know that you will be eager to see this kind of language as the “judgment of charity,” and you may be right. I am undecided. But I don’t think the Reformation is under threat when others want to talk about a covenantal justification of the whole congregation by means of their covenantal union with Christ. They are trying to take biblical language seriously.

    The Hebrews 10:29 thing is just a clearer and more concise example of God bringing sanctification and apostasy together in one verse. Again, we’ll let your readers decide whether your reading of this passage is a reasonable one, or whether you’ve swallowed a camel or two.

    But Paul is certainly not as careful with his language as you want Wilkins to be. By your standards, Paul has brought confusion and the danger of presumption into the Corinthian church by his promiscuous use of terms that are defined for us in the WCF.

    As you would say, “I can’t go there.” I’ve got to stick with Paul.

  64. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 5:20 pm

    I would go in the direction of judgment of charity. However, to say that SW is in line with the confession (again, see comment 29) is wrong. The WCF says expressly, “Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.” When verses like 1 Cor 6:11 can so easily be exegeted as a judgment of charity, why should we look for a whole other theological language set to describe it? By the way, you forgot the first part of that verse: “Such were some of you. But you were…” That changes things a bit, hey what?

  65. November 30, 2006 at 5:21 pm

    Todd, I agree as long as we understand the nature of Paul’s meaning and as a result qualify what we say knowing terms such as “justification” “salvation” etc. can be used differently in varying contexts. FV don’t seem to ever make these qualifications.

  66. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 5:23 pm

    Here’s Calvin on 1 Cor. 6:11:

    “His meaning is, that having been once justified, they must not draw down upon themselves a new condemnation — that, having been sanctified, they must not pollute themselves anew — that, having been washed, they must not disgrace themselves with new defilements, but, on the contrary, aim at purity, persevere in true holiness, and abominate their former pollutions.”

  67. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 5:24 pm

    “By the way, you forgot the first part of that verse: “Such were some of you. But you were…””

    Nuh uh. I included it.

  68. November 30, 2006 at 5:24 pm

    Lane, do you believe in a differnce between temproal justfication/ salvation and a ultimate decretal justification/ salvation? or you, Todd?

  69. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 5:25 pm

    David: “FV don’t seem to ever make these qualifications.”

    Sure they do. Look at Wilson’s presbytery exam. Do you have it?

  70. November 30, 2006 at 5:27 pm

    I have heard DW’s exam. I have accused him of not being a full-blooded FV’er too. He seems to equivocate a great deal.

  71. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 5:30 pm

    It is the “some” who are then washed, sanctified, and justified. Specifically, it is the some who had been walking in sexual immorality, adultery, homosexuality, thievery, etc. in verses 9-10. It is those “some” who were changed. So the “you” referred to in verse 11 has reference to the “some” in the beginning of the verse.

    David, I do not believe in such a distinction. I believe in a final present justification by faith that forever acquits us of guilt. It is faith in Christ that God uses to justify us. This justification is “privately declared” now in God’s own court-room. That same judgment will be publicly declared at the second coming. It is not a second justification, but an open declaration of what has already happened in the present. I don’t wish to get into Rom 2 at this point, so I will close it off there.

  72. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 5:31 pm

    David, I don’t know for sure that I understand your question. I am eager to do justice to the way the Bible uses these theological words, especially the way to “applies” the benefits of union with Christ to entire congregations, while warning them against falling away in the same letter. I am very shy about any reading that seems to be explaining these “difficulties” away. This is the issue the FV guys have forced our tradition to think about, even if they don’t have all the answers right.

  73. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 5:34 pm

    Wilson’s metaphor for his relationship is not blood. It’s beer. He suspects he may be FV Lite. Let me look around in Lusk’s stuff a bit.

    Lane, so is your view that *all* who used to be immoral (the some) are eternally justified? How would Paul know that for sure? If I have misunderstood you, please be nice and try again.

  74. November 30, 2006 at 5:41 pm

    When Peter speaks about Noah’s family coming through the flood and being “saved”, was that in an eternal / decretal sense, or in a temporal sense? Saved from the flood, as it were?

  75. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 5:43 pm

    Sure. Paul is not saying that everyone without exception has washing, sanctification, and justification. He is saying that if they have changed and no longer do those things, then that is *evidence* in their lives that they are washed, sanctified, justified. This is in a context of encouragement to the visible church at Corinth to live honorable lives (vs. 9’s opening question). Paul would surely not say that those in Corinth who still live in such sins are washed, sanctified, and justified. In fact, in this very letter, he will tell them to expel the immoral man, whose life does not match up to what washing, sanctification, and justification mean. My point is that Paul is not positing these blessings of everyone in the visible church.

    It is important to realize (a la the fact that we cannot read the human heart) that evidence does not prove the state of affairs. It is quite possible to fake it. And I do mean “fake it.” On the one hand, no one who is justified will be continuously living in such a state as verses 9-10 describe. On the other hand, just because someone is living a holy life does not mean for sure that they are washed, sanctified, etc. This is the general principle that Paul lays down. It can in no way be forced to mean that everyone in the visible church actually has all these benefits.

  76. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 5:50 pm

    David, how about Lusk in The Federal Vision, starting on page 284?

    “Again, there is no question that God’s elect, predestined for final salvation, will persevere to the end. They cannot fall away because God is determined to keep them in the path of life.”

    Special attention to the last section of his chapter. Let me know what you think.

  77. November 30, 2006 at 5:54 pm

    Yes Lusk sounds very confessional here. My concern arises when I wonder at what point Lusk believes that person is fully justifed. Is he fully justifed then he perseveres, or does he persevere and then Lusk believes him justified? Therein lies one of the major rubs.

  78. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 5:54 pm

    So is Paul describing some who might be faking it as justified and washed? It seems like Paul would have to know a lot more than it is possible to know in order to use these terms in the way you’re reading them. He doesn’t say “if,” and he doesn’t use the word “evidence.” And he warns this same group about the possibility of falling away, right?

  79. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 5:56 pm

    “Is he fully justifed then he perseveres, or does he persevere and then Lusk believes him justified?” I bet he would say, “Both.” But this is the way our catechism talks about judgment day: “Openly acknowledged and aquitted in the day of judgment.”

    But let me look some more.

  80. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 6:04 pm

    Here’s some more Lusk, but don’t miss the Edwards quote!

    “Second, there was the issue of justification related to perseverance. How does my assurance of present justification relate to the demand of perseverance? While the Reformers argued that simple believers could find a solid basis for assurance in the means of grace, they did not open the door to an antinomian salvation.
    Justification could not be severed from other aspects of God’s saving work. While the verdict of justification was grounded solely in Christ’s death and resurrection, we only share in Christ’s status if we are in him. Thus, at least some Reformed theologians insisted that our ongoing share in justification is dependent on
    persevering in Christ. God brings the verdict of the future into the present in part on the supposition that we will persevere. Thus, Jonathan Edwards: “Even after conversion, the sentence of justification remains still to be passed, and the man remains in a state of probation for heaven [until his faith produces fruits of
    obedience.]” He wrote that when God justifies us, he “has respect to perseverance, as being virtually contained in that first act of faith.” Edwards insisted that faith was the sole instrument of justification, but did not hesitate to speak of multiple “conditions” of justification, including obedience, good works, love, holiness, and lifelong perseverance. Edwards viewed justification as forensic, but also continual.”

    This is from his lecture notes from a Moscow, ID conference. The whole thing is definitely worth reading:

    http://www.trinity-pres.net/audio/christchurchjustification.pdf

  81. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 6:18 pm

    Paul is describing, in 1 Cor 6, simply what the general rule is for what happens when someone is changed by God, saved by God, washed by God. He is not pointing to the entire church and saying “You all have salvation; by the way, it’s only temporary unless you make it permanent.” Paul is saying that this is what happens when God changes someone.

    Where is the Edwards quotation from? That doesn’t sound like the Edwards I know, who wrote, in volume 1 of the BoT works, pp. 622ff, a very masterful treatise on justification.

  82. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 6:24 pm

    “Paul is saying that this is what happens when God changes someone.” But Paul didn’t write in third person, like systematic theology does. (Don’t accuse me of disparaging ST, please.) He’s writing second person plural, very common in the Bible. There’s no general rule here! He’s not writing about “someone,” he’s writing about–to!!–“the church of God that is in Corinth.”

    “He is not pointing to the entire church and saying “You all have salvation;”

    But he kind of is, isn’t he? He’s not making the distinctions and qualifications that you’re bringing in.

    He’s not saying what you’re saying he’s saying. That’s what I’m saying.

  83. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 6:31 pm

    The second person plural says nothing regarding this point. I could say “You all have been disobedient, and now you are obedient.” This doesn’t mean that all of them were, in fact, obedient. I’m generalizing, even using the second person plural. Doesn’t force me to redefine the terms of justification and sanctification, like you are doing. Don’t forget the qualifying phrase at the end of the verse, either. It is only in the name of Jesus that this happens, and by the Spirit of our Lord. By your argument, if he is talking to everyone, would he not include the man of chapter 5?

  84. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 6:40 pm

    That is a great question, one that I have thought of as I’ve been batting this around today. Here’s my answer. I dunno. It’s a great question. I don’t think it’s an easy question. He is, however, saying these things to the same people he warns about falling away in chapter 10.

    1:2: “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.”

  85. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 6:43 pm

    That brings up, in turn, the whole question about warnings in Scripture. If a farmer were to put out a sign that says, “Trespassers will be prosecuted,” what is the purpose of that sign? Is it not to insure that there will be no trespassers? In the same way, are not the warnings in Scripture God’s way of preserving the elect? No elect will ever fall away. The warnings, however, are not hypothetical. Rather, they are there both to warn the elect so that they will *not* fall, but also to up the ante for the non-elect, who, when they fall, will receive yet more condemnation.

  86. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 6:50 pm

    I agree with post 85, Lane.

  87. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2006 at 6:53 pm

    Okey-dokey. So, if Paul is addressing *everyone* at the Corinthian church, telling them that they are *all* justified, sanctified, etc., then what do we do with the man in chapter 5? Any further thoughts? To me it seems much more natural to interpret chapter 6 as saying that this is the general rule of what happens when you see such a drastic change.

  88. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 7:36 pm

    It’s not natural to use second person plural when describing a general rule.

  89. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 8:31 pm

    I believe that one of the most important sections in the FV book is pp. 279-280. Here are just a few lines, but I’d challenge anyone who has it to read it through.

    “The problem is not so much with the application of logic or the theological formulations. The problem is with the way Scripture is being read and applied. The Bible is not a revealed “system” of truth from which conclusions are to be deduced. Rather, it is a pastoral/liturgical/covenantal book.”

    “The promises about perseverance are not mainly theological axioms from which conclusions are to be deduced; rather, they are promises to be believed and claimed by faith. Scripture is not given first and foremost to provide logical exercises. It is given to feed and nourish our faith. We don’t deduce perseverance from a set of premises; we trust God in Christ to provide it.”

    “The Scriptural warnings concerning apostasy are not there primarily to be theologically analyzed and worked into a dogmatic system; they are there to be heeded and observed, lest we perish.”

    “The passage’s native habitat is the worshiping community; we must allow it to do its work there, rather than polishing off its rough edges in order to fit it into a dogmatic edifice we are busily constructing.”

    “Is Scripture a Father’s love letter (warnings included: “Do not run away from home!”) to his children? Or is it a professor’s lecture notes to his students? Those are really the questions at the heart of this whole controversy.”

    Not general rules, but promises and proclamations and warnings.

  90. Todd said,

    November 30, 2006 at 8:55 pm

    The first Edwards quote seems to be part of Miscellany 847. The second comes, I believe, from the masterful work you mention.

    “So although the sinner is actually and finally justified on the first acts of faith, yet the perseverance of faith even then comes into consideration as one thing on which the fitness of acceptance to life depends. God, in the act of justification which is passed on a sinner’s first believing, has respect to the perseverance, as being virtually contained in that first act of faith….God has respect to the believer’s continuance in faith, and he is justified by that, as though it already were, because by divine establishment it shall follow; and being by divine constitution connected with that first faith, as much as if it were a property in it, it is then considered as such, and so justification is not suspended….And that it is so, that God in the act of final justification which He passes at the sinner’s conversion has respect to perseverance in faith and future acts of faith, as being virtually implied in the first act, is further manifest by this: that in a sinner’s justification, at his conversion, there is virtually contained forgiveness as to eternal and deserved punishment not only of all past sins, but also of all future infirmities and acts of sin that the sinner shall be guilty of. And this is because that first justification is decisive and final. And yet pardon, in the order of nature, properly follows the crime, and also follows those acts of repentance and faith that respect the crime pardoned, as is manifest from both reason [i.e., it is rational] and Scripture.”

    I found this here:

    http://www.apuritansmind.com/Justification/CramptonGaryJustification.htm#_ftn72

    If it doesn’t sound like the Edwards you know…

  91. pduggie said,

    November 30, 2006 at 10:09 pm

    “This justification is “privately declared” now in God’s own court-room.”

    What does that even mean? private declaration is an oxymoron. What is the public event that declares it to the sinner, I wonder?

  92. onlooker said,

    December 1, 2006 at 8:49 am

    I don’t know. I used to not respect the FV at all!! But Todd’s arguments are starting to really make sense to me. Although I used to appreciate exactly what Lane is saying, I think I am finally seeing things through FV eyes. I think I am understanding it better. I appreciate the dialogue. Lane, thanks for your input. However, I really think what Todd is saying lines up with the text of Scripture in an interesting (yet different!) way than I am used to but I think it does justice to the text better than what anti-FVs have said. Guys, thanks for the dialogue. I have learned alot!!!

  93. Xon said,

    December 1, 2006 at 8:50 am

    Might I ask, Lane, how exactly you are using the word “heretical”? Do you mean “outside the pale of legitimate Christian confession”, or just “outside the pale of legitimate Presbyterian confession”? Or something else? Similarly for your claim that FV is “utterly to be abhorred”: abhorred by who, and how? Abhorred in the way that Arianism is to be abhorred by all orthodox (Nicean) Christians? Or ‘abhorred’ in the way that consubstantiation is to be abhorred by Presbyterians? (And ARE Presbyterians supposed to go so far as abhorring consubstantiation?) Or something else?

  94. Xon said,

    December 1, 2006 at 9:17 am

    Also, I think your claims about the visible/invisible church distinction pretty clearly mis-read FV intentions. FVers do not deny that there are two “different” churches, in some sense. As you would say, not all who currently profess Christ (the “visible” church) are among those who will be found to be elect at the last day (the “invisible” church). FVers agree with this! Afterall, what does it mean to think that you can fall away from the covenant if not that there are some folks who are currently in covenant with God, but who still are not elect? If anything, the FVers could be interpreted as holding to an even more robust distinction between the visible and invisible church than their opponents: for they actually see the “visible church” as having characteristics that belong to a church. The visible church is not simply those who “profess the name of Christ”, though it includes that profession. It also includes the sorts of things that characterize communities united together under a common cause. There is a shared identity, a shared mission in which all the members somehow take part (even if they are saboteurs); there are promises and blessings and warnings and curses that everyone comes and hears and enjoys together. The visible church is, in other words, an actual church, and not just a bunch of people who claim to assent to some particular propositions but who really are ‘hypocrites’.

    Of course, opponents disagree with the FV characterization of some people as being in “covenant” with God, since the opponents think that under the new covenant God only brings in those whom He intends to hold on to forever. So all this leaves for the damned members of First Presbyterian Church is no covenant at all (apart from the Noahic one), and some sort of mistaken (or disingenuous) claim to believe in Christ. But really they don’t, not in any way, because the only people who really ever believe in any sense are the elect. But, again, notice how paltry of a distinction these opponents now have. Arguably they have just gutted any real significance to the traditional distinction between the “visible” and “invisible” churches, for there is really only one church (worthy of the name) in their view–the invisible one made up of those elected to eternal life. The “visible church” is not a group of people who have been brought into some sort of real covenant community from which they will later fall away (all through God’s sovereign direction, of course), but is just a bunch of people who come to a building and say certain words about Jesus, the cross, supralapsarianism, etc. Words it turns out they don’t even “mean”. The “visible church”, on this anti-FV understanding, is nothing more than the “apparent church”, i.e., people who “look” from the outside like they’re in, but who aren’t really in the church at all. There is, it turns out, only one legitimate sense of “church.” And thus we have switched sides of the net, with the FVers actually taking the historical distinction between the two churches more seriously than their opponents do. Or so it might be argued, anyway.

    But the FVers also think there are better ways to describe this relationship than with words like “visible” and “invisible.” So they tend to choose different words to describe the difference between those who are currently in covenant with God through Christ in some sense, but are not elected unto eternal life, and those who are elected utno eternal life. They describe this distinction a bit differently, hoping to more accurately reflect what the Scriptures say about it. Their new descriptions may be incorrect, of course. But saying that they are “heretical” because they “deny” the distinction, full stop, is simply not the case.

  95. greenbaggins said,

    December 1, 2006 at 12:05 pm

    To answer Todd first: your argument about the second-person will not hold up. Couldn’t a teacher say in class, “Now, students, when you do X, Y happens.” Is that not stating a general rule in the second person? You’ve got quite the narrow view of language if you think that Paul could not have stated a general rule in second person. It’s a letter, for crying out loud! Letters are usually phrased in the second person, in my experience.

    I have answered the ridiculous FV quote in my new post.

    Is not the Edwards quote just a little off topic? He does not in any way establish a “covenantal justification” as opposed to “decretal justification.”

    To Paul, it is private in the sense that it is an “in” declaration. The world does not know about it. Indeed, they even scoff at it. The only ones who know are the cloud of witnesses in Heb 12, and the very court of God. That’s what I mean. What happens on judgment day is that the whole world hears about our justification and is forced to acknowledge it.

    To Xon, by “heretical” I mean that the system of the FV strikes at the very heart of the Christian faith. It is clearly outside the bounds of the WCF, and therefore ought to be shunned by anyone who holds to the WS.

    BOQ FVers do not deny that there are two “different” churches, in some sense. EOQ It is you who are plainly misinterpreting the FV. They deny the distinction between the visible and invisible church. I am really dumbfounded that you could even assert this, when it is all over their writings. In their system, there is no differentiation at all in the church until apostasy happens. How else could they argue for paedo-communion? Doug Wilson’s article rejecting the distinction of “visible/invisible” really ought to be enough to convince you of this point. This can also be seen in how the FV interprets the Vine and the branches passage in John 15. There is no difference among the branches. They all have the sap. “The distinction of ‘external’ and ‘internal’ union seems to be invented and is not in the text” (Wilkins, _Federal Vision_, pg. 63).

  96. December 1, 2006 at 12:10 pm

    Hey! Leave paedocommunion out of this! ;-)

  97. greenbaggins said,

    December 1, 2006 at 12:17 pm

    David, I do recognize paedo-communion as a separable issue. However, the basis for it is an undifferentiated church, is it not?

  98. December 1, 2006 at 12:50 pm

    Absolutely not. Just in the way infant baptist doesn’t imply an undifferentiated church, paedocommunion wouldn’t either (at least to my thinking, some my try to use this methodology). If a person who has been baptized, given communion, and grown up in the church apotasizes from the church, they are to be discplined up to and including ex-communication like any one else would. What makes you think otherwise?

  99. Todd said,

    December 1, 2006 at 1:51 pm

    “Couldn’t a teacher say in class, “Now, students, when you do X, Y happens.” Is that not stating a general rule in the second person?”

    Yes it is, but it has nothing in common with the the syntax of 1 Corinthians 6:11. You’re still straining, man.

    Yeah, the Edwards quote was just follow up with David.

    “It’s a letter, for crying out loud!” Exactly.

  100. Todd said,

    December 1, 2006 at 2:39 pm

    Here’s one more paragraph from Lusk, still thinking about David’s question about whether the FV guys make enough qualifications.

    Lusk writes, “As a confessional Presbyterian, I am constrained to argue that there is some kind of qualitative distinction between persevering faith and temporary faith. To say we don’t know what kind of faith/relationship the child has towards God is not a problem. We have to say the same thing in the case of adults.”Common operations of the Spirit” is the category we’re given in the Westminsterian tradition for explaining this distinction. Is it perfect? No. But it’s serviceable. It makes the key point. If a covenant child grows up and falls away, would you say that [a] he never had any faith whatsoever; or [b] he had a faith that was less than saving faith? Since Jesus speaks of covenant children being made to ‘stumble,’ I go with [b]. But I think you can see the problems with saying, “Well, because this covenant child might stumble in the future, and show himself to have only received a common operation of the Spirt, therefore we should not treat him as a believer in the present.” If we used that kind of logic, we could never baptize anyone since we lack “cardio-analytic abilities.” So, yes, the presence of faith — even if it turns out to be faith that doesn’t persevere to the end — matters. We’re creatures; we cannot have infallible knowledge of another’s faith or heart condition, much less God’s decree.”

    These comments can be found here:

    http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=31417067&postID=116417702190852826

  101. Xon said,

    December 1, 2006 at 3:08 pm

    Lane said to me:

    “It is you who are plainly misinterpreting the FV. They deny the distinction between the visible and invisible church. I am really dumbfounded that you could even assert this, when it is all over their writings. In their system, there is no differentiation at all in the church until apostasy happens. How else could they argue for paedo-communion? Doug Wilson’s article rejecting the distinction of “visible/invisible” really ought to be enough to convince you of this point. This can also be seen in how the FV interprets the Vine and the branches passage in John 15. There is no difference among the branches. They all have the sap. “The distinction of ‘external’ and ‘internal’ union seems to be invented and is not in the text” (Wilkins, _Federal Vision_, pg. 63).”

    A few comments by way of response to this, if I may.

    1. Wilkins is talking about “the text” of Romans 6 in that passage. Anyone who wants to see an “external” and “internal” union with Christ in Romans 6 is doing impropre eisegesis. This does not mean that there aren’t good things about the internal/external distinction that can be found in other passages of Scripture. Again, Wilkins is doing that FV thing that seems to drive their opponents bonkers: he’s looking at the particular text of Scripture (in this case Rom. 6) and trying to take it in its own terms rather than “pre-understanding” it based on some systematic theological category which then filters his understanding of what it “really means”. This is not to say systematic theology is bad, only that biblical theology needs some room to do its thing as well.

    2. You claim that for FVers there is “no differentiation at all in the church until apostasy happens.” You cite Wilson as a locus classicus for this. We seem to be at an impasse here of he said/he said. I don’t know what else to do but drop a couple of quotations. So here they are.

    (2a) “When a man falls away from the faith, there is clearly a sense in which he was never truly in the faith. But when a man falls away from the faith, in some sense he has to have been in the faith in order to fall away from it.” (Doug Wilson, AA Theology: Pros and Cons, 231, pre-published version)

    (2b) “Wilson states, “I agree completely that the grace experienced by the apostate and the persevering grace experienced by the elect differ, and that they differ in the hearts of those concerned.”[cites Pros and Cons, 226] And while Wilson does not necessarily disagree with speaking about a visible and invisible dimension to the church, he is more comfortable to speak about a historical and eschatological church.[cites Federal Vision, 263-9] This is because the New Testament church is one church. (Eph. 4) In her history, many will become a part of her that will later be broken off for unbelief. Perhaps a helpful way of expressing this point is that the “church” is not synonymous with the Reformed doctrine of unconditional election. The AAPC summary statement says that the difference between those who persevere and those who do not is not to be reduced to the time of their duration in the covenant.[cites AAPC summary statement as contained in MVP report] Indeed, employing this very point, it goes on to say, “God does work ‘effectually’ in those whom he has predestined to eternal life so that they do not fall away in unbelief. In this sense, we may say that there are things that are true of the ‘elect’ that are never true of the reprobate. But these distinctions…are impossible to recognize at the beginnings of one’s Christian experience within the visible church.”[cites same as previous] While the distinction is not as precise as the traditional one, it would be incorrect to say that there is no distinction. I might further remind the reader of the distinction between “salvation” as a conditional relationship and “salvation” as an enjoyed benefit (only for the elect), as discussed above.”
    (Joseph Minnich, “Within the bounds of Orthodoxy? An Examination of the Federal Vision Controversy,” http://www.federal-vision.com/minich.html)

    3. The FV interpretation of John 15 is indeed, as you say, that all branches, including those that later get cut out, “have the sap.” (By the way, do you deny this? How else can we sensibly read John 15?) This passage seems to apply more to your first criticism about “ontological” differences between elect and reprobate within the Church than to the visible-invisible church distinction, but that’s okay. These are clearly closely related anyway. Your two criticisms fit together very well, but so does the FV response.

    Yes, FVers say that both rep and elect “have the sap.” But this does not mean that there is NO significant difference between them. The FVers seem to claim that the differences between the elect and reprobate members of the Church are the kinds of differences that only come out diachronically. They are impossible to discern at the “front end”, i.e., when both initially enter the Church. But the fact that they are only revealed in time does not mean that time is the nature of the difference. It does not mean, in other words, that the differences which only reveal themselves through time are not there initially. See the quotes up above in 2b. There is a difference b/w elect and reprobate, and that difference is not merely one of duration. FVers say this.

    4. Finally, I would simply re-iterate that your insistence that we have a “differentiated” church sounds a bit odd, given that you actually do not believe that reprobates are truly ‘in’ the Church at all. On this reading, you are the one who fails to differentiate the Church, seeing it as one pure unblemished bride of Christ from start to finish in which certain hypocrites hide out for a time but never really “get it” in any meaningful way. The “visible church” on your presentation is not really a church at all, but only a thing that “appears to us churchily” (if I might use silly language from analytic philosophy). It appears that way, but it isn’t really what it appears to be. Am I misunderstanding your position here?

    ——-

    Finally, as to your use of heretical, Lane, you say this:

    “by “heretical” I mean that the system of the FV strikes at the very heart of the Christian faith. It is clearly outside the bounds of the WCF, and therefore ought to be shunned by anyone who holds to the WS”

    So anyone who believes differently than the WCF (assuming you are right that FV is outside that confessional boundary) is “striking at the very heart of the Christian faith”? And they should be shunned? Perhaps you only mean they should be shunned within the Westminster denoms, i.e., they shouldn’t be allowed to minister within those denoms. But this hardly sounds like “shunning”, typically conceived. I mean, would you refuse to take communion with them? Or to even call them a brother in Christ? If you don’t mean to be this harsh, then why do you say that they “strike at the very heart” of Christian faith? If, on the other hand, you do mean to be this harsh in your judgment of anyone who believes differently than WS, then how can you avoid the charge of being a sectarian (the bad kind)? How does your reasoning not also apply to Lutherans, evangelical Wesleyans, Baptists, and others whose beliefs do not line up properly with the WCF?

  102. greenbaggins said,

    December 2, 2006 at 11:08 am

    Xon, in reply to point 1. I don’t know which copy of _Federal Vision_ you are reading, but my quotation comes from his discussion of John 15. The third full paragraph on page 62 is where he begins his discussion of John 15. He doesn’t even mention Romans 6 on page 63. In fact, Romans 6 isn’t even in the context for pages on either side of the quotation.

    BOQ This is not to say systematic theology is bad, only that biblical theology needs some room to do its thing as well. EOQ What this really means is that ST should have absolutely no bearing on BT, that BT should have no shackles on it. You will never convince me of this one, Xon. I reject it utterly.

    Point 2. The quote from 2a just proves my point. He says that there is some sense in which he was in the faith in order to ahve fallen away from it. My point exactly. I argue that such people never had *any* saving faith whatsoever.

    BOQ Perhaps a helpful way of expressing this point is that the “church” is not synonymous with the Reformed doctrine of unconditional election. EOQ The problem with this quotation of Joseph Minich, is, that is does not take into account the Scriptural passages that argue for the invisible church as a legitimate definition. See the Scriptures referenced in the second bullet point in the original post. The problem with the argumentation seems to go something like this: we cannot know who the elect are. Rather we can only know who are in covenant with God. Therefore, when defining the church, we can only define what we see. the problem with this (a la the verses cited in the original post) is that *God* defines the church, not us. God has defined the church two ways. One, as has been frequently noted by now, includes elect and those who will eventually fall away. The other equally important definition, is of those who are elect only. It does not matter that we cannot see who the elect are and who they are not. This is one way in which we are to think of the church. No one has answered my historical points about the Reformation in this regard, nor has anyone looked into those passages. As long as those passages remain undealt with, the FV position has insuperable obstacles.

    Point 3, regarding John 15. This should really have its own post. I will post on it later.

    BOQ you actually do not believe that reprobates are truly ‘in’ the Church at all. EOQ This is a total caricature of my position, and not what I said at all. Did you read my post? I said that there are two ways of defining the church. One is in a way that includes reprobates. They are part of the church in that sense. They are not part of the church, when considered in the other way, namely, of election.

    Lastly, regarding heresy. I carefully differentiated between two kinds of heresy. One is that heresy that merely differs from the WCF, but doesn’t strike at the heart of the Christian faith. I would put Baptists in this camp. They are brothers, though they could not minister in a PCA church. The other kind of heresy strikes at the heart of the Christian faith. This is where I put Open Theism, Arianism, true Arminianism (as opposed to inconsistent Arminianism, which can be Christian), and this is also where I put the Federal Vision. To be more specific, this is where I would put certain members of the FV, since not all are as bad as some others.

  103. December 2, 2006 at 12:05 pm

    [...] Over at GreenBaggins, Lane has written a little on the Federal Vision movement. Much commentary ensues. He follows with a second post and it seems there may be yet more to come. I enjoy Lane’s perspective. [...]

  104. John said,

    December 2, 2006 at 12:57 pm

    Xon writes: “The FV interpretation of John 15 is indeed, as you say, that all branches, including those that later get cut out, ‘have the sap.'”

    I have to point out that

    (1) Not everyone associated with the so-called “FV” would talk about all the branches having the sap. I recall that phrase being used by only one person, and I have never used it myself.

    (2) Furthermore, there is NO “FV” interpretation of anything. There are various interpretations by men who spoke at the AAPCs in 2002 and 2003, or were involved in the colloquium in August 2003, or have been in conversation with them. There might even be an interpretation of a passage which all these people have in common. But there is no official “FV interpretation” of anything.

  105. Xon said,

    December 2, 2006 at 5:09 pm

    I agree with that entirely, John. It was entirely careless of me to speak as though that was “the” FV perspective. Thank you for the correction!

  106. Xon said,

    December 2, 2006 at 11:27 pm

    “Xon, in reply to point 1. I don’t know which copy of _Federal Vision_ you are reading, but my quotation comes from his discussion of John 15. The third full paragraph on page 62 is where he begins his discussion of John 15. He doesn’t even mention Romans 6 on page 63. In fact, Romans 6 isn’t even in the context for pages on either side of the quotation.

    Oops, yeah you got me there. I was mixed up about which passage he was discussing there. Mea culpa! But my point is simply that he was referring to a particular passage when he made those comments, and that your inference from his statement there to his denial of any distinction between elect and non-elect covenant members is faulty. He is not denying that, or at least that your argument from that passage of the FV book is insufficient to show that he has done so.

    “BOQ This is not to say systematic theology is bad, only that biblical theology needs some room to do its thing as well. EOQ What this really means is that ST should have absolutely no bearing on BT, that BT should have no shackles on it. You will never convince me of this one, Xon. I reject it utterly.”

    This isn’t what my statement “really means” at all. How does “some room” entail “never the twain shall meet?” For the sake of space, I’ll just say I agree with Reverend Barach’s statement in another thread about the importance of both ST and BT and their necessay inter-relationship.

    “Point 2. The quote from 2a just proves my point. He says that there is some sense in which he was in the faith in order to ahve fallen away from it. My point exactly. I argue that such people never had *any* saving faith whatsoever.”

    The primary point I was making with that quotation from Wilson is that he does acknowledge that there is a difference between the visible/invisible church, or between elect-unto-eternal-life and non-elect-unto-eternal-life members of the covenant. In some sense they were never in, just like you would say.

    But there is a difference between you, because you think that there is no sense in which they were ever in, while Wilson thinks that there is a sense in which they were. Okay, this is a disagreement between you, but it does not amount to heresy on Wilson’s part according to your original charge. You had claimed that FVers allow for “no differentiation at all in the church until apostasy happens.” But clearly Wilson does allow for some differentiation (per the quote in 2a). Now you say that this “just proves your point,” because Wilson doesn’t make a complete differentiation between them, but that wasn’t your point initially. Now you apparently want an absolute distinction between elect-to-salvation and non-elect-to-salvation members of the church, while Wilson sees both distinction and similarity between them. The problem is that you are ‘moving the goalposts’ on Wilson here, and I hope you can see that.

    “The problem with this quotation of Joseph Minich, is, that is does not take into account the Scriptural passages that argue for the invisible church as a legitimate definition. … the problem with this (a la the verses cited in the original post) is that *God* defines the church, not us. God has defined the church two ways. One, as has been frequently noted by now, includes elect and those who will eventually fall away. The other equally important definition, is of those who are elect only. It does not matter that we cannot see who the elect are and who they are not. This is one way in which we are to think of the church. No one has answered my historical points about the Reformation in this regard, nor has anyone looked into those passages. As long as those passages remain undealt with, the FV position has insuperable obstacles.”

    See, and now you are back to speaking as though FVers make no distinction at all. You claim that Scripture gives us two different ways of talking about the church. That we should think of the church as including “elect and those who will eventually fall away.” Great, but how is this a rebuttal to the actual position taken by (most? all?) FVers? This is also what they say, as I (and Minnich) understand them: isn’t it one of their main points that the church is “objective” and thus contains all those who have “objectively” been baptised? But this includes non-elect-to-salvation as well as elect-to-salvation, since not all who are baptised are elect-to-salvation.

    In other words, you have to pick one way to go here and stick with it. Either FVers do not make a distinction “at all,” in which case you are simply incorrect and quotes have already been provided demonstrating this. Or, they are wrong because, while they make a distinction, they also allow for similarity, and this you (and your understanding of orthodox Reformed theology) cannot abide. But, if this latter is your real complaint, then it has been only implicit up until now, and is not consistent with the way you have generally been phrasing your charge of heresy. This is bad for your case that FVers are heretics, all the more so since it is now you who is staking orthodoxy upon an “absolute” position of difference between elect and non-elect covenant members, a position which you have not demonstrated with evidence in this conversation (and a position which, below, it appears you don’t actually even hold). And they can’t be heretics until you provide such evidence: to wit, why is it heretical to hold that there is “some sense” in which elect-to-salvation and non-elect-to-salvation covenant members were both “in” union with Christ? Here I refer for added support to my comments #17 and #25 in the second “Why is FV Heresy?” thread. (Perhaps we should just transfer the entire conversation to one convenient place? It’s your blog, so you tell me what you want to do in this regard.)

    On either interpretation, your charges that FV is heretical have not yet been shown to stick.

    “BOQ you actually do not believe that reprobates are truly ‘in’ the Church at all. EOQ This is a total caricature of my position, and not what I said at all. Did you read my post? I said that there are two ways of defining the church. One is in a way that includes reprobates. They are part of the church in that sense. They are not part of the church, when considered in the other way, namely, of election.”

    As to the claim that reprobates are “part of the church in that sense”, I have to ask “What sense?” You haven’t stipulated, have you? The “sense” you are talking about is the “visible” sense of the church–the church in that sense includes reprobates. Okay, but how does it “include” them? Yes, you think of the “visible church” as including reprobates, but it seems it only includes them in the sense that there is a church building where religious stuff happens and there happen to be some hypocrites who hang out there for a time. My argument was that this could be construed (I made this clearer in earlier comments in this thread, but not as clear in my most recent) as not holding the “visible church” to be a “church” at all.

    Now, if this is a misrepresentation of your position, then I apologize. I am risking caricature here. But I will be most happy to have you set me straight, and point out particular ways in which the reprobate are “included” in the visible church beyond my description above. Because, as soon as you start to lay out those ways, you will be granting some kind of deeper “similarity” between elect and non-elect members of the covenant. Just like FVers such as Wilson do! (Hence my claim above that you yourself do not really seem to want to hold to the more “absolute” difference position which you are now claiming is a standard of orthodoxy.)

    “They are not part of the church, when considered in the other way, namely, of election.” Well, when “election” is defined in the typical Reformed sense of “elect-to-eternal-life”, then of course the reprobate are not part of the church in this sense. And no FVer that I have ever read would deny this.

    Sheesh, sorry to be so long. Blessings.

  107. markhorne said,

    December 4, 2006 at 10:35 am

    How about this:

    Are baptized reprobates in the visible church by an operation of the Spirit in common with the operation of the Spirit that brings baptized elect into the visible church?

  108. December 4, 2006 at 12:21 pm

    Mr. Horne,

    WCF X. IV. I think deals with this issue when it says,

    “Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved: much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the laws of that religion they do profess. And to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested.”

    ~ So that here the Confession seems to suggest there are operations of the Spirit common to all men, and reprobates as well as the elect are called ( a general call) but that the reprobate remains uneffectually called inwardly by the regenerating work of the Spirit.

  109. Todd said,

    December 4, 2006 at 1:07 pm

    David,

    But Mark’s question is about non-elect members of the visible church in particular.

  110. December 4, 2006 at 1:18 pm

    Todd,

    This section of the Confession begins, “Others, not elected…” Again, it suggest there are those who may be called into the visible church through “common operations of the Spirit” yet “never truly come to Christ.” These are those who would certainly appear, for a season, to demonstrate a desire for true religion, yet would in the end fully and finally fall away.

    Does this not address non-elect members?

  111. Todd said,

    December 4, 2006 at 2:12 pm

    It doesn’t seem to address non-elect church members in particular. Any unbeliever who hears the gospel is “called by the ministry of the Word.” But what is unique to the situation/experience for baptized covenant members?

    Marks question is a great one. Maybe I can rephrase it:

    The elect are brought into the visible church through the operation of the Spirit? Are the non-elect brought into the visible church through that same act of the Spirit?

  112. December 4, 2006 at 2:42 pm

    Yes, your rephrasing clarifies the question, assuming it is the same question.

    I think the Confession answers it by distinguishing here in this section between the reprobate who “profess the Christian religion” and those who govern themselves by the “light of nature” and “the laws of that (other) religion they do profess”.

    It is those who “profess Christ” that seem to point to visible church members. I suppose you might make the argument there are those who profess Christ outside the visible church, but that doesn’t seem to be a neccesary inference.

  113. markhorne said,

    December 4, 2006 at 2:49 pm

    Todd, I think the passage David sited does point to not just an offer, but to some measure of response. So it would apply to those who entered and/or continued in the visible Church.

    My point is simply that on one is in the visible Church except by God’s (commonly) gracious work.

  114. markhorne said,

    December 4, 2006 at 2:51 pm

    And to put a polemical edge to it, in order to differentiate “FV” from “calvinism” calvinism must be mutated into hypercalvinism.

    For me, in my intellectual/theological development, everything is about the validity of “the free offer of the Gospel.”

  115. December 4, 2006 at 2:58 pm

    Also you ask for yourself the question,

    “But what is unique to the situation/experience for baptized covenant members?”

    ~ My opinion FWIW, is that ALL covenant members receive temporal blessing and benefit by being part of the visible church. Yet I’d suggest that for the reprobate who chose to join themselves to the visible church, all temporal blessing they receive from such a union is ultimately a curse. For in the end, they will have rejected much more “light” than that of someone who never made such a public profession and never claimed for themselves something that wasn’t theirs. In other words, the epistemelogical self-consciousness of the reprobate finds it’s manifestation in all temporal blessing being ultimate cursing, while conversely for the elect, all temporal cursing is ultimate blessing.

  116. December 4, 2006 at 3:17 pm

    Mark, when you say everything is about the “free offer of the gospel”, do you mean the FV controversy? If it is, why not concentrate on that? I tend to think that from man’s perspective there is a “free offer” yet from God’s perspective He has already ordained the elect. Yet our’s is the duty to preach the gospel, the consequences are God’s.

  117. Xon said,

    December 4, 2006 at 6:54 pm

    Now you’re talking, David! Now, check this out: from man’s perspective there is a “union with Christ for all who are baptized” yet from God’s perspective He has already ordained who will be united to Christ in an everlasting way.

    The people who are associated with FV are diverse enough that this is rather silly as a summation of the whole enchilada, but so is any other formulation. There is no enchilada. But, if you can abide a statement like the one given above, then we’re getting somewhere.

  118. December 5, 2006 at 10:43 am

    Yes Xon, the visible/invisible church distinction makes clear that as far as we know those faithful to the visible church are “elect”. The key word is faithful. Fruit bears this out. It is unfaithfulness to Christ as manifest through aposatsy that is proof of breaking from the visible church. The invisible church, as far as it goes, is really none of our business. It is a secret thing which belongs to the Lord. We are to labor within the confines of the visbile church which is, to a lesser or greater degree, an approximation of the “true” invisible church.

  119. Xon said,

    December 5, 2006 at 3:14 pm

    Amen, brother! U-N-I-T-Y!

    Now, pretend that a vexed member of your congregation comes up to you doubting his assurance. The invisible church, as such, is none of your business, so what are you going to tell that person? All you can do is point to what is revealed, to the visible signs. We will tell him to have faith, but faith in what? Faith in God to deliver Him from sin and death? But here the problem with some Reformed theology comes in, because on some accounts we can’t tell him that; all we can say is that God saves those to whom He gives the gift of true faith, so if you have true faith you should be assured. But, of course, whether or not the person has true faith is precisely part of what is vexing them. If we are not careful, our understanding of faith might operate in practice as a sort of “feeling” of some vague faithishness, the feeling that he is disposed to God in a certain way, and this might be a positive sign unto him. But, of course, the subjective nature of my own feelings are what led him to be less than assured in the first place.

    The other “big picture” option, it seems to me, is to give real teeth to the orthodox definition of faith. Tell this troubled congregant that faith is trust, and trust means that you have something that is trustworthy to trust in. God Himself actually has his wing of protection over you. This is not just something He has promised to do, if you have faith but who knows if you really do? Rather, God has done actual things for you. He has called you to Himself through your baptism, through the preaching of the Word, through the joyful celebration of His meal. Christ has promised to be in these things, and you have these things. The only way to “lose” them is to not believe them. So, believe what is right in front of you every week, the visible things that God has given to tell you that you are truly His. Don’t believe in your own state of feeling ‘faithy’, believe in the power of the one who has laid this table before you and who has gathered all these people together to worship in His triune name. Believe the one who has already killed you once and brought you out the other side in baptism. He is the one who says that you, little sinner, should believe. So believe what He says! Don’t worry about whether you yourself have some particular internal subjective state of mind about these things, worry about whether the God of Heaven and earth keeps His promises. Does He? Then rest in Him.

    I think this gets at something close to what Mark means when he says that all this comes back to the “free offer” for him. For it seems like we can either tell vexed congregants that they are really connected to Christ in some way (a way that is visible and can be pointed to), and hence they should simply take refuge in that fact (i.e., believe God’s promise to save them), or we can tell them that they might be connected, might not be. FV, on this reading, is little more than the effort to work out some implications of wanting to give the first answer.

    So, the question, David, is what do you think about the visible church within whose confines we are to labor? Is it something that represents actual promises from God to save those who are inside (and the only way to fall outside is to not trust), or is it something that merely “looks” like the promises of God for all who are inside, but really is just a holding tank for a bunch of folks who have no promises at all?

  120. December 5, 2006 at 5:39 pm

    Genuine faith must know, assent and trust in the person and work of Christ. If I am dealing with a professing baptized believer, one who has produced good works in his life, and he is now questioning his assurance, I would ask him if he truly believes the gospel, loves God, and has a desire to do His will. These are all “invisible church” questions, if you will. But I’d also affirm him in the fruit of his life. In other words, if the fruits of righteousness are there, then I’d encourage him to stand firm and continue as such. These might be called “visible church” questions. In short, we need both. We need outward conformity (baptism, good-standing, good fruit, etc.) that are evidence of an inward reality, justification and peace with God through Christ. When we attempt to seperate them EITHER WAY, I fear we fall short.

  121. Xon said,

    December 5, 2006 at 10:43 pm

    I agree with that. I didn’t mean to ignore any “inward” reality whatsoever. Good stuff again, David.

  122. December 6, 2006 at 2:23 am

    Todd said: “I wonder why the writer didn’t say anything like that, then. He could have been so much more clear.”

    Sorry, for a moment there I thought I was reading an argument from Dave Hunt about how “all” means “all”, contrary to us Calvinists. After all, if Paul really meant “all the elect”, he would have been much more clear!

  123. December 6, 2006 at 2:32 am

    David M. said: “It is unfaithfulness to Christ as manifest through aposatsy that is proof of breaking from the visible church. The invisible church, as far as it goes, is really none of our business. It is a secret thing which belongs to the Lord. We are to labor within the confines of the visbile church which is, to a lesser or greater degree, an approximation of the “true” invisible church.”

    Those statements, upon reflection, are at odds with each other. We put people out of the visible church PRECISELY BECAUSE they have evidenced that they are not of the invisible church. It is never refered to as a “secret thing” that is none of our business. The “approximation” of the visible church exists because of our finitude, not because we should not strive, through biblical discernment, to make the approximation based on reasonable knowledge (via credible professions of faith) rather than “eh, not my business” attitudes toward the matter. We should strive to make the visible church to be composed of solely the invisible church according to the guidelines we are given in Scripture. This is, indeed, the fundamental meaning of church discipline.

  124. December 6, 2006 at 2:58 am

    Xon said:

    “Also, I think your claims about the visible/invisible church distinction pretty clearly mis-read FV intentions. FVers do not deny that there are two “different” churches, in some sense. As you would say, not all who currently profess Christ (the “visible” church) are among those who will be found to be elect at the last day (the “invisible” church). FVers agree with this!”

    This statement makes me think that you don’t understand the land mine FV has stepped on here. Your statement above makes a CHRONOLOGICAL distinction between the invisible and visible church. That is precisely the problem with going with Wilson’s tweaked definitions (calling the invisible the “eschatological”). Traditionally and Scripturally, the distinction entails an ONTOLOGICAL difference between visible and invisible. Both the visible and invisible EXIST RIGHT NOW. Those who are members of both the visible and invisible church have the ontological status seen in the Golden Chain of Romans 8, whereas those in the visible church only do not have this ontological status.

    Wilson may affirm this reality in some of his writings, but offering such “tweaked” redefinition leads us away from this understanding.

  125. December 6, 2006 at 3:10 am

    First point: unless someone can answer Lane’s post (#20), any defense of Wilkins, in particular, or FV, in general (insofar as it accepts or tolerates those errors) is hopeless. Put a sack on FV’s head, give it cement boots, and push it into the harbor. We’re done. It is telling that Todd, Xon, and Paul didn’t even pretend to touch that one.

    Second, Lane also pointed out the “revisions” in AAPC’s official statement on the Federal Vision/AAPC Conference. Now, the original draft of this was supposed to be a defense of the alleged errors that the session of AAPC were accused of. Apparently, the AAPC thought that this statement, itself, had errors, and needed revising. Now, if I were in a church where my session or consistory blundered fundamental issues of dogmatics not only once (in a conference), but twice (in a clarification/defense of that conference), I wouldn’t wait around for them to take a third stab at the matter. I’d run, not walk, out of a church where the session/consistory was so grossly incompetent in dealing with such matters of systeamtic theology. I would not trust them to take care of my cat over the weekend, much less entrust my soul to their pastoral care.

  126. December 6, 2006 at 3:21 am

    Paul said: “People who are saved are sinners who have received a declaration that they are righteous because of the work of Christ imputed to them. It doesn’t change their ontology. That’s the roman catholic view that you need grace infused into your soul, no?”

    A change in judicial standing before God IS a type of ontological change. Our judicial standing is a state of being, even if it is not congruous with our heart’s state or condition (being disposed to and producing, or not, righteous thoughts and deeds)

    The fact that our righteousness, in justification, is extra nos (outside ourselves – i.e. Christ’s imputed righteousness”) does not mean that there is no ontological change in the justified man in his judicial state of being.

  127. Todd said,

    December 6, 2006 at 8:00 am

    David, for post #20: Are you comfortable with Wilson’s way of putting things: an unregenerate church member is an unjustified member of a justified people?

  128. December 6, 2006 at 9:44 am

    David, I admit saying it is none of our business is a bit strong. I suppose I should have said it is beyond our perview. I’m just not usually that eloquent. We are to be about trying to maintain the purity of the church, which would include putting people out of the visible church because we believe them to be outside the invisible church. Yet our judgments aren’t infallible and we can err. My point was to say we should refrain from attempting to judge the heart (invisible church “stuff”) and to be about judging the fruit ( visible church “stuff”). Sorry for the confusion.

    Todd, I’d say that unjustified church members as a whole, are unjustifed members of a justified people as a whole. But our responsibility in discerning the body remains with the fruit of the individual member, not tryng to peer into their heart looking for a “justified” stamp somewhere on it. God gave us a visible church and church discipline, as David H. has said, in order to maintain the purity and unity of the church as best as fallen humanity can. I believe the Spirit works when and where it pleases and therefore can work outside the boundaries of our judgments.

  129. Todd said,

    December 6, 2006 at 10:25 am

    Thanks, David. Well said. My question was for the other David, who said he was eager to hear a response to Lane’s post #20.

  130. Xon said,

    December 6, 2006 at 10:37 am

    David G., this point has already been addressed, though in the other “Why FV is heresy” thread. There I wrote the following:

    As to whether any Reformers ever held to a “covenantal justification,” I’d say it all depends on what this would entail. It seems clear that at least some Reformers were okay with thinking that the non-elect can actually have “the gift of reconciliation”, that they “have a common starting point” with those who are elect, that God is truly showing a special compassion to them but only for a time. Further, at least some Reformer also sought to refute the notion that “God’s grace, if once truly shown, is permanent and lasting.”

    Clearly, none of these claims mention “justification” explicitly. But it would only require an argument similar to the one you have levelled against Wilkins to make them apply to justification. How can the Reformer I quote above think that there are non-elect members of God’s covenant community who have the gift of reconciliation, without thinking that they are actually, in some sense, reconciled to God but in a temporary way? But if they are reconciled to God, then they must be “right” before God in some sense, mustn’t they? These do not persevere to the end, as do the elect, but they both start off the same (in some sense).

    There is a “reconciliation” with God that is losable, according to at least one Reformer. If you want to argue that this “reconciliation” doesn’t amount to “justification,” “sanctification,” etc., then I’m willing to let you have those particular words (putting Scripture’s usage of them aside for the moment), but the claim that I take many FVers to be making need not be put in those terms: that those who are in covenant with God, but are not elect to salvation, still have a real union with God of some kind. A union that, say, an unbelieving Muslim doesn’t have, but still not quite the kind of union that the elect-unto-salvation have.

  131. Xon said,

    December 6, 2006 at 10:43 am

    As for Wilkins particularly, it has already been pointed out that he has qualified his statements from the FV book in a number of ways in later statements. If you want to argue that this makes him unclear, then okay, but being unclear does not make you a heretic.

    But I even think it is possible to say, with Wilkins in the FV book, that non-elect-to-eternal-life covenant members have “every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus“. I don’t see why we can’t say that they have, in some sense, all the blessings that come from being united to Christ in the here and now. Of course, they are not going to persevere in this union, because God has not decreed them to do so. They will lose faith, they will not believe, and they will fall away. And then all those former benefits of union with Christ will become curses to them. Bummer.

    As to your insistence on an “ontological” difference between the elect-to-salvation and the non-elect-to-salvation members of the covenant, everyone in this conversation has granted that there is such a difference, as do all the FV people I’ve ever read. See the Rev. Barach’s comments in the John 15 thread, for instance. Why are we being forced to go over this ground again?

  132. Xon said,

    December 6, 2006 at 10:44 am

    Finally, here’s a quotation I gave for some food for thought in that other thread:

    “The spirit seals remission of sins only in the elect, and in such a way that they can apply it to their use with particular faith. It is for good reason, however, that the wicked are said to believe that God is favorably inclined toward them, since they have the gift of reconciliation, although in a confused and insufficiently distinct way. They are not sharers with the sons of God in the same faith or in rebirth, but they have with them a common starting point.

    “I do not deny that God illumines the minds of the wicked so that they perceive his grace, but he distinguishes that feeling from the unique testimony that he gives the elect; consequently they do not come to real completion and fruition. He does not show himself favorable toward them in order to snatch them from death and receive them into his keeping, but shows them a compassion only for the present. He considers that only the elect are worthy of the living root of faith, so that they may persevere to the end. This refutes the objection that God’s grace, if once truly shown, is permanent and lasting. Nothing prevents God from illuminating some with a present sense of his grace, which afterward vanishes away.” [emphasis added]

  133. Xon said,

    December 6, 2006 at 10:53 am

    David G. said:

    “A change in judicial standing before God IS a type of ontological change. Our judicial standing is a state of being, even if it is not congruous with our heart’s state or condition (being disposed to and producing, or not, righteous thoughts and deeds)

    Good point, David, but this is a point that many FVers make. If this is the kind of “ontological” change you are talking about, then like I said two comments ago, this is something that FVers affirm and you are wrong to accuse them of doing any differently. When I go from being at enmity with the Creator of all things, to being His adopted son, this fundamentally changes my “being”, by definition. How could such a fundamental change in my relationship to my creator NOT affect my ontic status? As I recall, the first people I personally ever read this sort of insight from were FVers!

  134. Todd said,

    December 6, 2006 at 11:12 am

    I can’t stand it anymore! I wanted someone else to be the one who asked! But the tension is killing me! Isn’t anyone else curious? Xon, whom are you quoting?

  135. December 6, 2006 at 11:27 am

    FWIW I agree with Xon’s quote; whoever it is.

  136. December 6, 2006 at 12:28 pm

    Todd: “David, for post #20: Are you comfortable with Wilson’s way of putting things: an unregenerate church member is an unjustified member of a justified people?”

    Todd, this is all too typical of how you have dealt with Lane so far. Asking this question cannot exhonerate Wilkins – no matter which way I answer it. You simply can’t take the real issue here head-on. For any impartial observer, this is telling. What stake do you have in this issue that you would so transparently spend so much effort trying to defend the indefensible? It makes me wonder.

    To answer your question, it depends on what “justified people” means. Since justification is never used in a corporate sense in Scripture, you are going to have to come up with an artificial understanding of such a term.

    “”As for Wilkins particularly, it has already been pointed out that he has qualified his statements from the FV book in a number of ways in later statements. If you want to argue that this makes him unclear, then okay, but being unclear does not make you a heretic.”

    Xon, those are the sorts of statements that need to be repented of and recanted, not “qualified.”

    “As to your insistence on an “ontological” difference between the elect-to-salvation and the non-elect-to-salvation members of the covenant, everyone in this conversation has granted that there is such a difference, as do all the FV people I’ve ever read.”

    Xon, you continue to act as if this debate is whether or not the FV formally profess various aspects of Reformed theology. Obviously, they do. The question is how their systems and formulations are consistent with this. Wilson affirms an ontological distinction, but the question is HOW CAN HE if we adopt his chronological definitions? This is a question of basic consistency.

    “I don’t see why we can’t say that they have, in some sense, all the blessings that come from being united to Christ in the here and now. Of course, they are not going to persevere in this union, because God has not decreed them to do so. They will lose faith, they will not believe, and they will fall away.”

    I’ll tell you why, Xon. Because that is Arminianism. “All the blessings” that come from being united to Christ include such things as the (ontological) states described in the Golden Chain of Romans 8 or decretal election in Ephesians 1.

    Regarding your quote (of Calvin, I guess), there are only two remarkable things about it. First, this person has a doctrine of common grace, which he considered resistible. No problem here. The fact that you think this is a big FV trump card tells me that you haven’t been paying close attention here.

    The only problematic part is talking of a “reconciliation” which is something less than “justification.” Again, I don’t know what such a term could possibly mean. Understood in confessional categories, this is false. Nor do I know of any Scriptural category where “reconciliation” is something less than justification.

  137. December 6, 2006 at 12:47 pm

    “”But if they are reconciled to God, then they must be “right” before God in some sense, mustn’t they? These do not persevere to the end, as do the elect, but they both start off the same (in some sense).”

    Xon, I commented on this sophistry under the “Is Fed V Heresy part 2″ combox.

  138. Todd said,

    December 6, 2006 at 12:47 pm

    “Since justification is never used in a corporate sense in Scripture,”

    This is begging the question quite a bit, David. Can you prove it? Can you do so without being so condescending?

  139. December 6, 2006 at 12:49 pm

    “This is begging the question quite a bit, David. Can you prove it? Can you do so without being so condescending?”

    How is it begging the question to note a fact about Scriptural usage? And then you ask me to prove a negative on top of it! If there is such a usage, please point it out in Scripture.

    And I am assuming we are talking about “justified” in the Pauline sense, not “justified” in the sense of vindication.

  140. Todd said,

    December 6, 2006 at 12:53 pm

    “Todd, this is all too typical of how you have dealt with Lane so far. Asking this question cannot exhonerate Wilkins – no matter which way I answer it. You simply can’t take the real issue here head-on. For any impartial observer, this is telling. What stake do you have in this issue that you would so transparently spend so much effort trying to defend the indefensible? It makes me wonder.”

    Come on, David. I’m not trying to exonerate anyone; just trying to keep the conversation going. Impartial obesrvers will need to decide for themselves whether who’s treating the Scriptures more adequately, and you wondering about motives is a bit silly. And, hosestly, David. Look at my short little posts; does it really look like I’m spending much effort? I’m just here to ask some questions and call some bluffs.

  141. Todd said,

    December 6, 2006 at 12:59 pm

    “How is it begging the question to note a fact about Scriptural usage?”

    It’s begging the question merely to assert the answer to a disputed question. The scriptural usage is the question. Corporate? Individual? You’ve assumed an answer, but you haven’t proven it.

  142. December 6, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    “Come on, David. I’m not trying to exonerate anyone”

    Good, then I hope you’ll join me in calling on FVers to repudiate those statements and teachings of Wilkins. Can I count on your support?

  143. Todd said,

    December 6, 2006 at 1:05 pm

    Jump the gun much, David? Prove your case rather than merely assert it sarcastically, and I’m with you.

  144. December 6, 2006 at 1:05 pm

    “The scriptural usage is the question. Corporate? Individual? You’ve assumed an answer, but you haven’t proven it.”

    If you are saying “the Scriptural usage” in general in in question, you might have a question of some merit. But in the specific, normal Pauline usage that we see in Romans and Galatians, NO Reformed interpreter denies that justification is individual. This is why Abraham and David are mentioned in places like Romans 4, not corporate Israel. Even Rome does not understand these passages in a corporate sense.

    And these passages are decisive, because “justified” in our systematic theology categories corresponds to this normal Pauline usage of the term.

  145. Todd said,

    December 6, 2006 at 1:15 pm

    In your opinion, David, on what basis can Paul tell the Corinthians, “You were justified”? I know Lane’s answers, of course, but I’d be interested in yours.

  146. December 6, 2006 at 1:23 pm

    I’d side with Lane. Part of the intent in using the 2nd person plural is a judgment of charity. Part of the language is simply the CONVENTIONAL use of language – imprecise and general. Qualifications may be implicit, even if not explicit. This is taking into account normal contextual considerations of a letter wtitten to a church.

    In the “Is Fed V Heresy Part 2″ thread I posted, amongst other things, the following:

    Embracing what is, essentially, a biblicist hermeneutic is hardly “sticking with Paul.” Following the historical-grammatical method commits us to what Paul meant to convey to his audience. This intention drives our exegesis, not artificial wooden literalism. You assume that because Paul used the second person plural in his grammar that he would not have had any qualifications in mind in addressing his audience. You argue “he didn’t qualify himself”. Explicitly? No. But contextually? Yes. Addressing an audience in a general, undifferentiated manner is a common convention in writing letters. That is an implicit intention. What do you do, I wonder, with the phenomenological language of Scripture? We should not expect that Scripture be as precise as FV (ironically) assumes here.

    There is a difference between saying that Paul doesn’t (explicitly) qualify himself and saying that there are not qualifications intended in his speech and substance of his message.

  147. Todd said,

    December 6, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    This (146) is a very strong post, David; quite a bit more compelling than Lane’s approach. I don’t see this over on the Part 2 thread though.

    My next question, if you’ll allow me, is this. On what basis should an individual Corinthian church member decide whether Paul is talking to him, or whether he’s one of the the exceptions?

  148. markhorne said,

    December 6, 2006 at 2:44 pm

    “And I am assuming we are talking about “justified” in the Pauline sense, not “justified” in the sense of vindication.” So 1 Tim 3.16 is not Pauline?

  149. Xon said,

    December 6, 2006 at 3:48 pm

    David G., for the sake of simplicity, I think we should keep the conversation in one place. It is getting too difficult to track back and forth between 2 (or 3) different threads. Perhaps you would be so kind as to import significant things from the other thread over to this one? Just a thought about how this might proceed more smoothly.

    The quote is indeed from Calvin (sorry for the suspense, Todd!), and I left a good bit out. It’s from a letter of his, and can be found in “Calvin’s Ecclesiastical Advice” (Westminster/John Knox Press: 1991). You say, David G., that “there are only two remarkable things about [the quote]. First, this person has a doctrine of common grace, which he considered resistible. No problem here. The fact that you think this is a big FV trump card tells me that you haven’t been paying close attention here.”

    But this clearly underappreciates what Calvin writes here. Calvin is not talking about some mere “common grace” (which goes to the whole world), but about a “special grace” that goes to some but not to others. He is talking about the Church, and about the fact that in his view there are some here who have been given a “gift of reconciliation”, but only temporarily. Do you honestly read Calvin here as thinking that all people (since it’s common grace, acc. to your reading) “have the gift of reconciliation?” You try to split this into two separate “remarkable” points, but this misrepresents the way they hold together in the letter. Calvin thinks there are people who have been reconciled to God, but only temporarily. This is the kind of grace–grace involved in being reconciled to God–that he thinks does not have to be permanent and lasting. To return a little snark for snark, the fact that you think all Calvin is getting at here is the standard Reforemd dogmatic category of “common grace” shows that you have not been paying attention.

    And, of course, you do go ahead and bite the bullet and admit that you think Calvin is wrong here. This is okay, of course–nobody is required to agree with everything Calvin ever thought (I know I don’t). But what does it do to the idea of “one meaning among the Reformers” for all those theological terms we Reformed folks like to use so much? Calvin thinks that there is a reconciliation to God that doesn’t last. Lane had said earlier (and I take it you agree with him here) that there the Reformers only think of things like “justification” in ONE way, as a special gift that goes only to those who are elected-to-eternal-life. But Calvin doesn’t seem to think of them that way, and I think he counts as a Reformer. To offer the left hand of fellowship to Reformed ministers over this would be disturbing.

    Regarding whether there is an ontological difference between elect-to-salvation and non-elect-to-salvation covenant members, David G. writes:

    “Xon, you continue to act as if this debate is whether or not the FV formally profess various aspects of Reformed theology. Obviously, they do. The question is how their systems and formulations are consistent with this. Wilson affirms an ontological distinction, but the question is HOW CAN HE if we adopt his chronological definitions? This is a question of basic consistency.

    Because a difference that only reveals itself diachronically can still be an ontological difference. You seem to be assuming that the two are opposed, but why? Like I said already in comment #101 above,

    “The FVers seem to claim that the differences between the elect and reprobate members of the Church are the kinds of differences that only come out diachronically. They are impossible to discern at the “front end”, i.e., when both initially enter the Church. But the fact that they are only revealed in time does not mean that time is the nature of the difference. It does not mean, in other words, that the differences which only reveal themselves through time are not there initially. See the quotes up above in 2b. There is a difference b/w elect and reprobate, and that difference is not merely one of duration. FVers say this.”

    There is some sort of philosophical presupposition at work in your charge of heresy, David G., that has not been proven and which I don’t see any reason to accept. Why can a person not believe that A and B are differ at a ‘deep’ ontological level while at the same time believing that this difference is only revealed through time? I simply don’t see why a person can’t think this way, and in fact I think this is precisely how the FVers think. Bob and Tom are both brought into the Church through baptism, and are thus in some real sense both united to Christ. But later Bob stops believing and falls away. Bob goes to Hell. Tom goes to Heaven. God ordained all of this to happen just like this, from the beginning, and the fact that Bob and Tom bore a completely different eternal relationship to their Creator is no small difference! Surely we can even call it an ‘ontological’ difference (I know I call it that).

    But, to be blunt, here you are, charging folks with heresy, and you haven’t even justified this fundamental presupposition (which has not support in Scripture or anywhere else that I know of) that lies behind your reasoning on which the charge is based. Perhaps your next move will be to call me arrogant for pointing this problem out to you? (Since that is another charge that has been made against FVers on this blog: they are arrogant for not submitting to these “learned” sorts of critiques.)

    Please forgive my bluntness here, but it has already been made clear by Lane that he doesn’t think he needs to be charitable in discussions of things FV. Men have their reputations and ministries within the Reformed world on the line, and so just like Lane is willing to “die on the hill of justification” I am willing to risk being a little blunt when charges are being thrown around that rest on questionable (and unacknowledged) presuppositions.

  150. Xon said,

    December 6, 2006 at 3:59 pm

    Finally, I had said this:

    “I don’t see why we can’t say that they have, in some sense, all the blessings that come from being united to Christ in the here and now. Of course, they are not going to persevere in this union, because God has not decreed them to do so. They will lose faith, they will not believe, and they will fall away.

    To which David G. replied thusly:

    “I’ll tell you why, Xon. Because that is Arminianism. “All the blessings” that come from being united to Christ include such things as the (ontological) states described in the Golden Chain of Romans 8 or decretal election in Ephesians 1.

    But where is the textual evidence that this is what Paul means by “all the blessings” in Ephesians 1? You are leaping to connect this to the Golden Chain, but where does Paul make this connection? As we all know by now, some FVers have pointed out that Paul is addressing the entire congregation at Ephesus (and whoever else the letter was meant to circulate to). I know, that’s just a “judgment of charity” or ordinary vague usage of language according to FV opponents. But my point is not to argue for one interpretationof the passage or the other, but to say this: why is mis-reading one particular biblical passage cause to call someone a heretic? So maybe, if you are right, Wilkins or Leithart misreads Ephesians 1. They should understand “all blessings” as belonging only to the elect-to-eternal-life within the congregation, but they for some reason fail to see this. Okay, but why does this make them heretics?

    You claim that their view is “Arminianism,” but I don’t see how you can say that. They affirm that, whatever eternal state a person ends up in, not to mention every step they take along the way, is pre-ordained by God without regard to anything within the person himself. Standard, monergistic Calvinism on this point. The disagreement is over whether those who have not been elected to eternal life can still be said to be in a real union with Christ, a union that contains such blessing that at the beginning you can’t even tell these non-elect apart from the elect. More particularly, the disagreement is over whether this view can be found in Ephesians 1. I fail to see how any of this amounts to a denial of the Reformed faith, though, and calling it Arminianism is just silly.

  151. Xon said,

    December 6, 2006 at 4:09 pm

    Finally, I would just like to understand better this drive to call someone a heretic for being “inconsistent.” If a person affirms the orthodox position, but then they also say other things that seem inconsistent with this, then it seems the working rule for anti-FVers for this kind of situation is to cast out the inconsistent person as a heretic. But it is awfully hard to be perfectly consistent in all of one’s beliefs. Judge not, lest ye be judged.

    If someone wrote a book, or even just an article in a theological journal, analyzing the position of Lane or David G or whoever else, and managed to show fairly persuasively after several steps that their views are not consistent, would this mean they deserved to be run out of Reformedville on a rail? I don’t think so.

    Of course, sometimes our inconsistencies are rather obvious and much easier to demonstrate, so perhaps the FV opponents think that this is the kind of inconsistency that FV proponents are falling into. In their FVish writings they are blatantly contradicting their other orthodox statements. You don’t have to write a book or article showing this, it’s right there, easy to demonstrate. But then there’s the small problem of actually demonstrating. Showing such a blatant contradiction with orthodoxy in the writings of FV proponents has proven to be hard work so far for the FV opponents, as I think this very thread demonstrates. Yet the charges of heresy continue to fly, unabated. Too imporant. Doctrine by which the church stands or falls. The very Gospel is at stake. Mmm hmm, maybe we should all get back in our corners for a while…

  152. December 6, 2006 at 5:26 pm

    Isn’t heresy a declaration by a judical court of a recognized and duly formed organized church? And so should individual Christians (elders, ministers, or other) be throwing it around on a blog? We might certainly believe a certain doctrine to be heresy, but unless or until those eccesiasatical bodies we submit too declrare them heresy, maybe it is wise it refrain from it ourselves.

  153. December 7, 2006 at 1:10 am

    Xon said “Do you honestly read Calvin here as thinking that all people (since it’s common grace, acc. to your reading) “have the gift of reconciliation?”

    and

    “To return a little snark for snark, the fact that you think all Calvin is getting at here is the standard Reforemd dogmatic category of “common grace” shows that you have not been paying attention.”

    Actually, the outward administrations of the church are usually subsumed as a type of common grace (even if not a UNIVERSAL grace) in systematic theology, since “common” grace is any form of non-saving grace.

    One could say that this form of grace is “special” in that it is not universal, but there is nothing peculiar or hostile to the “TR” viewpoint in acknowledging such a reality. After all, Calvin elsewhere teaches the existence if an irresistible form of grace, in distinction from the resistible manifestations of God’s grace. That is sufficient for our purposes here, that he affirms the existence of the latter form even if he is silent on the former form of grace in this immediate passage.

    The fact that Calvin connects a “reconciliation” of sorts to the latter form does not negate the uniqueness of the former. He does not equate this “reconciliation” with justification (see below).

    “Calvin thinks that there is a reconciliation to God that doesn’t last. Lane had said earlier (and I take it you agree with him here) that there the Reformers only think of things like “justification” in ONE way, as a special gift that goes only to those who are elected-to-eternal-life. But Calvin doesn’t seem to think of them that way, and I think he counts as a Reformer. To offer the left hand of fellowship to Reformed ministers over this would be disturbing.”

    But it is not obvious what, in Calvin’s context, he could mean by “reconciliation”, much less that it is equivalent to his usage (or ours, or the FV use) of the term “justification.” In fact, that passage suggests otherwise – he says that only the elect have “remission of sins” and only speaks of this “reconciliation” in terms of “comfort” and having a “sense of his grace.”

    There is no one-to-one correspondence with Calvin’s language here and FV language, is the bottom line of all this.

    But even if this rear-guard attempt to read back FV errors into Calvin’s writings were successful, it could not exhonerate FV. If FV really meant nothing more than what Calvin is saying here (which is decidedly NOT the case), it would STILL be unconfessional. We subscribe to our confessions, not to every jot and tittle of Calvin’s writings.

    Short, concise, and technically-precise confessional statements drafted and approved by multiple presbyters in a governing ecclesiastical bodies and tested by time is going to be far, far more reliable and consistent than every statement written over a large corpus of even the world’s most astute divine.

    We expect that more primitive lights and seminal thinkers of the church would not be fully consistent with the more developed creeds and confessions.

    Calvin is oftentimes not even consistent with himself. This is what gave rise to folks such as Norm Geisler (following R.T. Kendall?) who could pit a Calvin quote vs. other Calvin quotes to deny that Calvin believed in Limited Atonement.

    This category of a non-salvific “reconciliation” is as obscure as it is ambiguous. It is certainly not a major locus in Calvin’s thinking. The fact that you have to run off to such an obscure letter of Calvin’s is nothing more than a desperate attempt to find something, ANYTHING that sorta sounds like FV teaching.

    I already responded to the merit of such a category of “reconciliation” in the other thread:

    “This is malarky worthy of the Sophists. If one is going to try to make a distinction between being “reconciled in some sense” (no eternal, incorruptible justification) and “reconciled” in the sense of having “peace with God” (Romans 5:1), then you are going to have to do more than posit the existence of this distinction. What is the substance of this distinction? What does it mean to be “reconciled” in this novel sense? And what distinguishes being a temporarily “reconciled” vessel of wrath and an unreconciled (non-covenant) vessel of wrath?

    If “reconciled” is, in its definition, inclusive of the conception of “God’s wrath being abated and propitiated”, then such a distinction is absolutely hopeless. If we empty the term of this content, then “reconciliation” means nothing at all. At least, nothing important.”

    The only way that “reconciliation” could be defined here, with any biblical credibility, is to make it roughly the same idea as what Romans 2 speaks of – the “forbearance of God He [in which He] passed over the sins previously committed.” But it is not obvious that this is Calvin’s conception in using this term, or else this word is badly translated.

  154. December 7, 2006 at 1:23 am

    “Finally, I would just like to understand better this drive to call someone a heretic for being “inconsistent.” If a person affirms the orthodox position, but then they also say other things that seem inconsistent with this, then it seems the working rule for anti-FVers for this kind of situation is to cast out the inconsistent person as a heretic. But it is awfully hard to be perfectly consistent in all of one’s beliefs. Judge not, lest ye be judged.”

    If this was just a passing error of Wilkins, we could agree. But it is not – these matters are the very centerpiece of the FV movement – the VERY THING that makes FV distinct. Supposedly, the very thing that we TRs needs to be taught a lesson about (and the very reason for the polemical intent behind the original Auburn Avenue conference). He has made this error into a locus of his teaching.

    And if this matter was just an error, as a result of temporary sloppiness and our fallible natures, we would expect that Wilkins would, upon correction from his brethren, recant those errors. But he has done nothing but dig in his heels AND CONTINUES TO PUBLISH AND PREACH, expositing and defending those errors repeatedly. We will find out, by February (when the Standing Judicial Commission meets) if he will, at long last, recant of these errors.

  155. December 7, 2006 at 1:30 am

    “In their FVish writings they are blatantly contradicting their other orthodox statements. You don’t have to write a book or article showing this, it’s right there, easy to demonstrate. But then there’s the small problem of actually demonstrating. ”

    I believe it HAS been quite blatant. Explicit? Of course not. But “by good and necessary consequence.” You betcha. And, yes, sometimes you do have to write articles and go to some lengths that are not “easy” to demonstrate what is nonetheless a NECESSARY consequence of someone’s writings (similar to the way the church has developed its doctrines from Scripture).

    Beisner’s response to the Louisiana Presbytery is quite fitting here:

    We assert that Mr. Wilkins’s statements cited here entail by good and necessary
    246 consequence that all who are baptized in water will be eternally saved. We know and
    247 are grateful that Mr. Wilkins denies that consequence. But the fact remains that he
    248 wrote as he did, and we believe the Committee and Presbytery should call on Mr.
    249 Wilkins to retract some of what he wrote in light of its necessary consequence.

  156. December 7, 2006 at 2:18 am

    “Why can a person not believe that A and B are differ at a ‘deep’ ontological level while at the same time believing that this difference is only revealed through time? I simply don’t see why a person can’t think this way,”

    If this was the substance of Wilkins’ teachings, then we wouldn’t have a problem. But it is not. Your statment is true – we distinguish between the ontological reality and the epistemological issue (the difference “revealed through time”). But assigning the benefits, which properly belong to the decretally elect, to all members in the visible church is making an ONTOLOGICAL statement about those in the visible church! Wilkin lists these benefits as including (drawn from I Corinthians):

    a. sanctification in Christ,
    225 b. calling to be saints,
    226 c. the grace of God,
    227 d. enrichment in everything by Christ in all utterance and knowledge,
    228 e. assurance that they will be confirmed to the end blameless,
    229 f. calling into the fellowship of Jesus,
    230 g. being “in Christ” and sharing in His wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and
    231 redemption,
    232 h. receiving the Spirit so that they might know the things given them by God, things
    233 the natural man cannot know,
    234 i. being made the temple of God,,
    235 j. having all things belong to them because they are Christ’s and Christ is God’s,
    236 k. being born through the gospel,
    237 l. Christ’s having been sacrificed for them,
    238 m. having been washed (or baptized) and thus sanctified and justified,
    239 n. the destiny of being raised up just as God raised Jesus,
    6Wilkins, “Covenant and Baptism,” transcript p. 4: “listen again to how [Paul] speaks to the church at Ephesus,
    this is of course very familiar to us: They have been blessed ‘with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,’ they
    have been chosen in Christ Jesus ‘before the foundation of the world,’ so that they would be ‘holy and without blame
    before him, in love,’ they have been ‘predestined to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good
    pleasure of His will,’ that by God’s grace they’ve been ‘accepted in the Beloved,’ that in Christ they ‘have redemption
    through His blood, the forgiveness of sins,’ that God has made known to them ‘the mystery of His will,’ which, of
    course, is the gathering up of all things, Jew and Gentile, into Christ. All things that are in Heaven and earth. And
    that in Christ, they have ‘obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all
    7
    240 o. having been bought with a price,
    241 p. having communion with the body and blood of Christ and thus being one body
    242 with Him,
    243 q. being the body of Christ and individually

    [again, taken from Beisner's response]

    These are ontological realities that supposedly apply to members of the visible church. This is not merely a matter of knowing (the epistemological issue) or not knowing whether these benefits belong to particular individuals within the visible church at the outset. Wilkins is, here, not talking about the differences between the elect and non-elect covenant member being “revealed”, as you say, over time. He is saying that they both have those blessings NOW (before the Last Day or before the non-elect’s apostacy). And that is an ontological assertion.

    “But where is the textual evidence that this is what Paul means by “all the blessings” in Ephesians 1? You are leaping to connect this to the Golden Chain, but where does Paul make this connection?”

    Well, Xon, are you really prepared to argue that the benefits of Romans 8 are NOT blessings that we receive by virtue of our union with Christ? This common-sensical question should settle the matter right out.

    But even if you are going to make that argument, it can’t save Steve Wilkins. Because:

    1. He explained exactly what he meant by “all blessings”, including the list cited above taken from I Corinthians. Those are blessings that belong to the (decretally) elect only!

    2. He SPECIFICALLY said of Romans (all of 8:28-34) that “Paul is not stating promises that are true only for some unknown group called the ‘elect.’ Nor is he speaking only to a portion of the congregation whom he judges to be ‘regenerate.’ Rather, he is applying these promises to all the members of the Church who have been baptized and united to Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6).” (The Federal Vision, p. 57).

    3. Even if his context was limited to Ephesians 1, that’d still be enough to bring ecclesiastical charges against him. Ephesians 1 cannot be speaking of anything less than an infallible eternal salvation (the Spirit is given as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance). This chapter is full of language that can only be applied to the elect (forgiveness of sins, chosen to be holy and blameless, redemption through Christ’s blood).

    “But my point is not to argue for one interpretationof the passage or the other, but to say this: why is mis-reading one particular biblical passage cause to call someone a heretic?”

    Misreading particular passages does not necessarily put one outside the pale of orthodoxy – but some misreadings certainly do. What do you think happens if you make pivotal misreadings of John 1:1 or James 2:28? A certain level of accuracy, at least the main gist, on the readings of these passages is required to remain orthodox.

    “You claim that their view is “Arminianism,” but I don’t see how you can say that. They affirm that, whatever eternal state a person ends up in, not to mention every step they take along the way, is pre-ordained by God without regard to anything within the person himself. Standard, monergistic Calvinism on this point”

    Monergistic salvation and a compatibilist/soft determinist metaphysic are central to Calvinism, but not exhaustive of Calvinism. The means by which God accomplishes his predestined salvation include the bestowing of grace that is peculiar to the elect – which is irresistible and irrevocable – including a new heart and a VITAL union with Christ (not just covenantal union) and remission of sins. These are non-negotiables of ALL of our confessions – the Westminster Standards, as well as the Canons or Dordt, Belgic Confession, and Heidelberg Catechism.

    “The disagreement is over whether those who have not been elected to eternal life can still be said to be in a real union with Christ, a union that contains such blessing that at the beginning you can’t even tell these non-elect apart from the elect.”

    Hmmmm…this is SLIGHTLY different from what you said before. Here, you seem to suggest that the epistemological issue (“you can’t even tell”) exists BECAUSE of ontological realities (the elect and non-elect covenant members both have the same blessings) that are really present. If this is what you are saying, then you have just come back to denying unequivocal ontological distinctions between the two.

    But if you are saying “you can’t even tell” because those ontological differences don’t MANIFEST THEMSELVES visibly, although they do exist, then you are not in a position to defend FV, since, as demonstrated above, their statement concern the ontological realities, not merely the manifestations of those realities and our epistemological competence to know them.

  157. December 7, 2006 at 2:41 am

    Todd said:

    “It [WCF 10.4] doesn’t seem to address non-elect church members in particular. Any unbeliever who hears the gospel is “called by the ministry of the Word.” But what is unique to the situation/experience for baptized covenant members?”

    Ahh, yes. Another sign of Todd’s desperate, hopeless attempt to try to stretch and reach and contort and gyrate to make the FV view seaworthy.

    Those “called by the ministry of the Word” cannot be people outside of the visible church because this very section of the Confession contrasts that group with those “not [even] professing the Christian religion.” So the former, by implication, DO profess the Christian religion (the very definition of the visible church in WCF 25.2).

  158. December 7, 2006 at 2:51 am

    Todd said: “This (146) is a very strong post, David; quite a bit more compelling than Lane’s approach. I don’t see this over on the Part 2 thread though.

    My next question, if you’ll allow me, is this. On what basis should an individual Corinthian church member decide whether Paul is talking to him, or whether he’s one of the the exceptions?”

    I am, in all sincerity and genuineness, glad that my previous post was helpful to you on this matter.

    Your question, however, is too tangential to the central concern of Lane’s (and my) main thesis in this thread for me to chase it down right now, especially in light of all the interaction going on at this point.

  159. Todd said,

    December 7, 2006 at 8:03 am

    Paul the apostle says, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

    And here’s Cleisner’s recent reponse: “We assert that Paul’s statement cited here entail by good and necessary consequence that all who are baptized in water will be eternally saved. We know and are grateful that Paul denies that consequence. But the fact remains that he wrote as he did, and we believe the Committee and Presbytery should call on Paul to retract some of what he wrote in light of its necessary consequence.”

  160. Xon said,

    December 7, 2006 at 9:37 am

    “especially in light of all the interaction going on at this point.

    Indeed, David G., this can be a bit exhausting!

    I don’t want to keep piling up words, so I’ll try really really hard not to do so beyond what is necessary.

    It seems to me there are three main points of contention here (feel free to add more if you think it is appropriate):

    (1) Ontological difference between elect-to-salvation and non-elect-to-salvation members of the covenant.

    (2) Calvin’s letter and how it relates to this discussion, particularly in terms of “common grace” and reconciliation to God.

    (3) Wilkins’ own writings about the benefits that non-elect-to-salvation members of the covenant temporarily possess, particularly whether these writings are consistent with “Reformed orthodoxy.”

    Regarding (1), you claim in your most recent comments that FVers deny a genuine ontological distinction between covenant members who are going to Heaven and those who aren’t. You also indicate that I seem inconsistent myself in this regard–on the one hand I put things in a way which you find unproblematic, but which do not exonerate FV because the FV view is not what I have presented it to be; on the other hand I too slip into saying things in a way that is unorthodox.

    But I’m not inconsistent, and I think the mistake you make in thinking that I am perhaps reveals the mistake you are making in your reading of the FVers on this matter as well. Here’s what I said that you found problematic:

    ““The disagreement is over whether those who have not been elected to eternal life can still be said to be in a real union with Christ, a union that contains such blessing that at the beginning you can’t even tell these non-elect apart from the elect.”

    You (David G.) responded with this:

    Hmmmm…this is SLIGHTLY different from what you said before. Here, you seem to suggest that the epistemological issue (”you can’t even tell”) exists BECAUSE of ontological realities (the elect and non-elect covenant members both have the same blessings) that are really present. (A) If this is what you are saying, then you have just come back to denying unequivocal ontological distinctions between the two. (B)” [I added the (A) and the (B)]

    The problem with your critique here is that your argument is invalid–(A) does not entail (B). The fact that Bob and Tom each have some ontological realities in common by virtue of their union with Christ does not mean that there are not also ontological realities that are different between them. Some similarity does not entail absolute similarity. I predict you will be tempted to call this “sophistry”, so I’ll say a little more about it here to try to stave off this objection. (Though, the very fact that the argument form you have used is invalid should be rather obvious, and it really isn’t sophistry to point this out.)

    Suppose that Bob, who is united to Christ in such a way that he will go to Heaven when he dies, and Tom, who is united to Christ in such a way that his union will last only temporarily and he will in fact not go to Heaven when he dies, each have some set of “ontological realities” in common by their respective unions. Perhaps it fits more or less closely to the list that Wilkins presents which you have helpfully cited for all of us. (Putting off further direct discussion of Wilkins to point (2)). But there could be other things that are still different between Bob and Tom, could there not? For just one example, how about the fact that Bob has an everlasting reconciliation to God and Tom doesn’t? If you want to object that this difference is “merely relational”, I will only point out that once again you are importing questionable extra-biblical philosophical presuppositions to make your criticism of FV stick. Why oppose ontology and relationality? Why think that one’s relationship to the Creator of all things doesn’t make a difference to one’s very “being”?

    Nota bene, I don’t think one has to make this sort of move to make the case for FV. There are other differences between Bob and Tom that could be listed. But I’ll just stick with this one to save space, and sine it actually is a move that many FVers make in their writings. Aristotle would disagree that the particular relations of a thing can have anything to do with it’s being/substance/ontology, but I’m sure you would agree that Reformed thinkers need not side with Aristotle on this.

    In short, you want to criticize FVers for allowing no ontological distinction between Bob and Tom. But in fact, they do allow for a distinction. But they also allow for a similarity. (This, by the way, is an argument I was making against Lane last week in either this thread or the other one, so this is not an ad hoc maneuver on my part.) The debate between FV and its opponents is a debate within Reformed theology over the extent to which non-elect-to-salvation covenant memebers are genuinely united to Christ. It is not a debate over “ontological difference, yes or no.” There is some sort of ontological difference between Bob and Tom, acc. to FV, but there is also similarity. Perhaps FV critics want to deny any similarity at all (indeed, some of the comments in these two threads have indicated this), but this is a very difficult position to maintain, and leads to point (2) and Calvin.

  161. Xon said,

    December 7, 2006 at 10:48 am

    So, regarding (2), you helpfully point out that I was a bit sloppy in my characterization of “common” vs. “special” grace. If, systematic theologically, we define “common grace” as “any non-saving grace”, then obviously whatever kind of reconciliation Calvin is talking about in the letter I quoted would be “common grace.” But, it is still a grace of reconciliation to God, and you frankly admit that you have trouble with Calvin saying this. The rest of your comments about what he might mean by the term, about whether this reconciliation adds up to other things like some sort of temporary “justification”, and about how we aren’t bound to Calvin anyway are all irrelevant to the point I was making with the quote. I already said earlier that you can have words like “justification” and “sanctification” if you want them, but that I was simply pointing out that Calvin thinks there is a reconciliation which non-elect-to-salvation covenant members have with God, a reconciliation which they later lose. This way of speaking does not sit well with “TR” views, and you yourself make this clear at the end of your comments on Calvin: he’s inconsistent, we should go with the confessions anyway, etc.

    You say that the basic idea that there is a temporary grace given to covenant members, but later withdrawn, is not a problem for your view:

    “One could say that this form of grace is “special” in that it is not universal, but there is nothing peculiar or hostile to the “TR” viewpoint in acknowledging such a reality. After all, Calvin elsewhere teaches the existence if an irresistible form of grace, in distinction from the resistible manifestations of God’s grace. That is sufficient for our purposes here, that he affirms the existence of the latter form even if he is silent on the former form of grace in this immediate passage.

    The fact that Calvin connects a “reconciliation” of sorts to the latter form does not negate the uniqueness of the former.”

    And this gets us back to the problem with your criticism of FV. I do not deny that your “TR” view can acknowledge that there is a difference between those who are elect-to-salvation and those who are non-elect-to-salvation within the covenant. What I deny is that you then have any grounds on which to fault FVers when they also admit of a difference. You want to say that FVers in fact admit no distinction at all, but you have not yet provided any argument sufficient to show that (see (1) above, and previous comments).

    The conversation seems to be working like this. First, FVers are called out for saying that non-elect-to-salvation covenane members have a genuine union with Christ which gives them real benefits. It is claimed that this entails a denial of any “ontological” difference between these non-elect covenant members and elect ones. But this is not entailed at all, and this has been shown. It only entails that there is an ontological similarity between them, as an ontological difference. What’s more, some evidence has even been given to show that Calvin himself held that there was ontological similarity. But your response to the Calvin quote is to say “Hey, we believe in ontological similarity, but we also see important differences.” Well, okay, but this is what FVers do as well.

    This brings us straight to (3), Wilkins’ actual writings. Like I said to Lane in the other thread (in a slightly different context, but still pertinent), you have to pick a criticism and stick to it. Do you deny any ontological similarity at all between Bob and Tom (a similarity deeper than what comes from their both being human? i.e., an ontological difference that sets them both apart from rank pagans?) Is this what you think the problem is with FV, that they allow for any similarity at all? If so, then I think you have a problem with Calvin’s letter (though “ontology” does not enter directly into Calvin’s letter, of course), which is why I brought it up. But, forget Calvin, because I agree with you that really at the end of the day Calvin’s letter does little work in this debate (except for restraining over-zealous claims that the Reformers all held “one” view of such-and-such, which is why I originally brought the letter in).

    I think you have a problem with simply proving your charge of heresy, because your position is now a very difficult one to demonstrate. You have to show (a) that confessional Calvinism requires that there is no ontological similarity between Bob and Tom, at all, by virtue of their membership in the Church, and (b) that this is a non-negotionable point of confessional Calvinism, i.e., that to deny it is to become a “heretic” by confessional Calvinistic standards. But I don’t see anywhere in Scripture or in the WS where the claim is made that there is no ontological similarity between the Bobs and Toms of the world. And if you can’t prove (a), then you certainly can’t prove (b).

    In any case, you haven’t proved it yet. And thus the claim that FVers are “heretics” is unproven.

    Or, on the other hand, do you admit that there are ontological similarities, and not differences only, between Bob and Tom? Well, in that case, you and most FVers (I hesitate to say “all” for obvious reasons) are in a broad agreement, though obviously you could still disagree as to the nature of those similarities. This makes the entire idea of a “heresy” charge against FV much harder to swallow, but it would be possible to make it stick if you could show (a) that confessional Calvinism requires the ontological similarities and differences between Bob and Tom to be divided up a particular way, (b) that FVers don’t do it this way, and (c) that failing to do it in this way is a non-negotiable for confessional Calvinism.

    But nothing like this sort of an argument has been presented. All we have seen are quotes in which Wilkins (particularly) claims a number of similarities between the Bobs and Toms in the church, similarities which you insist must be ontological in nature (and I agree with you here), followed by two bits of problematic reasoning: 1. the invalid inference from Wilkins’ list of similarities to the claim that he must be denying ontological distinctions between Bob and Tom altogether (dealt with in the previous comment); and 2. the claim that particular passages of Scripture (Ephesians 1, at least, and probably Romans 8 when taken in conjunction with Ephesians 1) teach that certain of the ontological realities Wilkins thinks elect and non-elect covenant member share actually are found only in the elect, as though this by itself proves your case that he is a heretic. The real question is, do the WS require that all orthodox Reformed people interpret these passages in the “TR” way? I don’t see how they do. If they don’t require this, then Wilkins is, at worst, mis-reading certain passages of Scripture, but so long as his mis-reading does not lead him to unorthodox beliefs (which is what happens when someone misreads John 1:1, for example) then it should not in and of itself be cause for accusing him of heresy.

    To put the question again, in terms of (a) – (c) above, do the WS require that the similarities and differences between elect and non-elect covenant member be divided up a very particular way, and do they also make a partiuclar interpretation of Ephesians 1 a necessary condition for getting this division correct? If they do, then you can argue that Wilkins is out of bounds with the WS. If they do not, then I don’t think you have shown Wilkins to be a heretic.

    Finally, you called Wilkins’ view (or, more properly, my attempted presentation of it) “Arminianism.” When I found this ridiculous, you followed up with the following:

    “Monergistic salvation and a compatibilist/soft determinist metaphysic are central to Calvinism, but not exhaustive of Calvinism. The means by which God accomplishes his predestined salvation include the bestowing of grace that is peculiar to the elect – which is irresistible and irrevocable – including a new heart and a VITAL union with Christ (not just covenantal union) and remission of sins. These are non-negotiables of ALL of our confessions – the Westminster Standards, as well as the Canons or Dordt, Belgic Confession, and Heidelberg Catechism.” [emphasis added]

    Okay, so I hope this isn’t petty, but you’re admitting that it was silly to call Wilkins’ view ‘Arminian’ view, right? Because, while you are right that “monergistic salvation and a compatibilist/soft determinist metaphysic” are not exhaustive of Calvinism, they are sufficient to exclude someone from being an Arminian. Nobody can call themself an Arminian and hold to monergistic salvation and a compatibilist metaphysic. Your criticism of FV here has to do with something else, not its latent (or explicit) ‘Arminianism.’

    More substantively (or less pettily), Wilkins can affirm every bit of the bolded portion of your quote. There is, indeed, a “grace that is peculiar to the elect [unto eternal life]“. But, for Wilkins, there is also a temporary grace that is peculiar to the non-elect covenant members. Nothing in his writings that I am aware of (or that has been produced so far in this thread) contradicts this. Obviously, this peculiar grace that goes to the elect-to-eternal-life is “irresistable and irrevocable”, since God monergistically decreed from the beginning that Bob would go to Heaven. Bob can’t, ultimately, do anything other than what God decreed for Him to do. (And neither can Tom.)

    And Wilkins can also assert that the elect-to-salvation have a “vital” union with Christ (i.e., a union that will bring them eternal life), and that the non-elect-to-salvation have a union that is not “vital” in this way. The only real problem might be with the “new heart” language–certain FVers (James Jordan, really), find this language problematic, but I don’t know that Wilkins does. Even in the case of those that do, however, it is only because they object to the idea that we persevere in the faith because of something within ourselves (i.e., God gave me a new heart, so now I’m going to persevere forever). They would rather give God all the credit, i.e., that I persevere because God sends His spirit to wrestle with me all the way throught my life. (Think about it: if God gives me a “new heart” that is in and of itself “incorruptible”, then why would I need the Spirit? I will, henceforth, persevere on my own…)

    But if all you mean by “new heart” is that God brings about an ontological change in the elect, and that this change differs from the change He brings about in the non-elect, then again I don’t think you’ve hit on anything that FVers in general would really disagree with.

  162. Xon said,

    December 7, 2006 at 11:11 am

    Oops, in the previous post, sixth paragraph, fifth sentence, the final clause should read “as well as an ontological difference.”

    Not “as an ontological difference.”

    Finally, I just want to say a little something about the assertion of “sophistry” in my (or any other FVish person’s) remarks.

    “This is malarky worthy of the Sophists. If one is going to try to make a distinction between being “reconciled in some sense” (no eternal, incorruptible justification) and “reconciled” in the sense of having “peace with God” (Romans 5:1), then you are going to have to do more than posit the existence of this distinction. What is the substance of this distinction? What does it mean to be “reconciled” in this novel sense? And what distinguishes being a temporarily “reconciled” vessel of wrath and an unreconciled (non-covenant) vessel of wrath?

    Well, I would start by positing a closer relationship between ontology and relationality than has been traditionally recognized (in all of western thought, not just talking about Reformed theology here), and point out that the very fact that God has determined to reconcile Himself to one person in an everlasting way, and to another in a way that will not last, is itself indicative of a deep ontological difference between the two people. This is a difference in the way that “I” will forever be related to my Creator–how can it not affect my “being”?j

    But this might sound like I am now saying that the only difference between elect and non-elect is a difference “of duration,” which is not what any FVer I am aware of says (and I have already quoted Wilson explicitly rejecting this way of speaking). So, to avoid even the appearance of this, I would also add that I think that when God extends His favor/grace to a person whom He has decreed to bring to everlasting life, He does change that person’s “being” in some way then and there. This person becomes a different person than he was before. At the same time, when God extends His favor/grace to a person whom He has decreed to protect for a while but then later to cast off through unbelief, He changes that person’s “being” as well. And, I think that these two new “beings” that the two people have are themselves different. So, they are now both different kinds of people than they once were, but they are also different kinds of people form each other. And I understand Wilkins to be saying this is as well.

    But you want to say that, unless we can specify exactly what the different kinds of “reconciliation” are, or what the different kinds of “beings” are made of, then it is sophistry to assert a distinction. Though I have tried to oblige you a bit by describing some of this difference, in truth I reject your demand outright. No Christian can consistently believe that it is “sophistry” to assert distinctions which cannot be clearly defined. As a rough analogy, consider the peculiar mystery of Augustinian and Calvinistic Christianity–compatibilism. Somehow, I’m responsible for what I do, but God decrees everything that happens from before the foundation of the world. A rationalist incompatibilist will insist that this doesn’t make any sense, that you cannot “distinguish” genuine (libertarian) freedom and genuine responsibility. You cannot have responsibility without libertarian non-deterministic freedom, he will say. We say he is wrong, but can we “define” exactly how human responsibility and divine determinism are both true? Should we have to? Or is it enough to say “God says they’re both true, so get over it?” I think it’s sufficient to say this. Don’t all good Calvinists? Why, then, do we insist that FVers “define, specify, describe” when they say that there is both a similarity and a difference between the union with Christ that elect and non-elect covenant members have?

  163. greenbaggins said,

    December 7, 2006 at 2:34 pm

    I am tremendously honored that so many comments have accrued to this subject. It is a vitally important discussion. I am reading all the comments, even if I won’t have time to respond to them right now. And thanks to all (not just to David G., though I have to mention him specifically) for spending time on this discussion. I am learning lots as I hope other people are. Will comment on substance when I get back from vacation.

  164. December 12, 2006 at 4:25 pm

    “”The fact that Bob and Tom each have some ontological realities in common by virtue of their union with Christ does not mean that there are not also ontological realities that are different between them. Some similarity does not entail absolute similarity.”

    My criticism did not entail “absolute similarity” in the FV view. I said that your problem was in “denying unequivocal ontological distinctions between the two” – not denying ANY ontological distinction, but, rather, denying certain, specific distinctions (plural). And those SPECIFIC distinctions are made to be chronological only.

    And it is in those SPECIFIC distinctions, that Wilkins fails to make, that puts him outside of our confessions.

    “Perhaps it fits more or less closely to the list that Wilkins presents which you have helpfully cited for all of us.”

    No, it doesn’t. That list is precisely where the problem is.

    “For just one example, how about the fact that Bob has an everlasting reconciliation to God and Tom doesn’t?”

    In that case, the distinction would be an ONTOLOGICAL distinction, not a distinction between ontology and relation.

    But the problem, once again, is in the specifics. The only ontological distinction Wilkins makes here is that one is temporal and the other is not.

    “It is not a debate over “ontological difference, yes or no.” ”

    Agreed, but again this cannot exhonerate Wilkins when it comes to those non-negotiable specifics.

    “The debate between FV and its opponents is a debate within Reformed theology over the extent to which non-elect-to-salvation covenant memebers are genuinely united to Christ.”

    And the problem that Wilkins, specifically, runs into is in claiming that those who are covenantally united to Christ are also VITALLY united to Christ and have all the blessings in the heavenly places. This is an inexcusable blunder.

    If all you were saying is that “covenantal union should still be thought of as a real type of union with Christ and emphasized as real and objective, but, gosh, Wilkins has taken things too far and should recant those things he has said that are outside of our confessions” then I could respect your position. But you seem to want to defend Wilkins at all costs, stretching things to absurd lengths to make things fit beyond all intellectual credibility. So I can’t respect that.

    “What I deny is that you then have any grounds on which to fault FVers when they also admit of a difference.”

    Again, my criticisms concern specifics – WHAT are the differences they admit? The structure of your argument seems to be “FV acknowledges continuity (albeitwhile also acknowledging some discontinuity) between elect and non-elect covenant members. Calvin also acknowledges continuity (of some sort). Therefore FV must be OK.” I was responding to this. That is only half an argument.

    “that confessional Calvinism requires the ontological similarities and differences between Bob and Tom to be divided up a particular way, (b) that FVers don’t do it this way, and (c) that failing to do it in this way is a non-negotiable for confessional Calvinism.

    But nothing like this sort of an argument has been presented.”

    The whole reason I pointed to the specific “list” of Wilkins’ is to show PRECISELY how the distinctions are divided up “in a particular way”, and how Wilkins departs from the confessional distinctions at these points.

    It is telling that you cannot defend, head-on, these particular statements of Wilkins. It is precisely at these points that the confessions say NO! – you cannot impute “all the blessings in the heavenly places”, the blessings of Romans 8, I Corinthians, and Ephesians 1 to non-elect covenant members. Heavenly Days McGee! How can any self-professed Calvinist not see this as blatantly anti-confessional and unreformed on a fundamental and systematic level.

    “The real question is, do the WS require that all orthodox Reformed people interpret these passages in the “TR” way? ”

    Well, I suppose there is an outside possibility that if one translates John 1:1 as “the Word was a god” that one could remains orthodox in theology (affirming the Nicene Creed), but the chance is pretty slim. Even if so, would you expect such a minister who is that blatantly double-minded and incompetent to remain a minister in good-standing at the next meeting of presbytery?

    Even if logical consistency between exegetical theology and dogmatic theology was the only issue (which it absolutely is not), Wilkins would still have problems. How could such an inharmonious exegetical theology be made to square with his supposed dogmatic? This would require quite a bit of explanation and a systemic re-defining of terms, as our confused Arian/Nicene presbyter example above would have to provide – aside from their positions already being exegetically dubious (I would say laughable).

    One would have to say that the all of the terms and blessings in Romans 8/Ephesians 1/I Cor. and all the blessings “in the heavenly places” are DEFINED DIFFERENTLY than the category of blessings given to the elect only. So non-elect members are “justified, forgiven of sins, had their sins paid for by Christ, interceded for by Christ etc. etc.” differently that elect members are. But Wilkins does not define them differently. He never tells us what it could mean to be temporarily “justified”, for instance, in a way different than elect members are justified. He never demonstrates the existence of this distinction, much less defines the substance of this distinction, much less justifies the distinction from the Bible. In fact, Wilkins’ whole point, and the structure of his argument presumes, that these are in fact the same blessings.

    That is the necessary consequence of saying that “ALL BLESSINGS in the heavenly places” apply to the non-elect covenant members. All really does mean all here. That leaves no logical room for OTHER blessings that apply only to the elect. This problem is insuperable.

    Such an artificial distinction (which Wilkins does not make, nor does he have in mind), aside from the exegetical problems, leave us, again, with substantive deficiencies in redefining such terms and defining such distinctions (as I will argue below).

    The fact that Wilkins does not have this distinction in mind, and that he believes this set of blessings listed to be the same set given to the elect, is that he uses PRECISELY THESE BLESSINGS to ground assurance of salvation to covenant members. Lane pointed this out in the second post of this thread, and it is utterly damning to his position.

    “Nobody can call themself an Arminian and hold to monergistic salvation and a compatibilist metaphysic. Your criticism of FV here has to do with something else, not its latent (or explicit) ‘Arminianism.”

    Wilkins’ beliefs and FV are hybrid systems – neither fish nor foul. Considered generally, AS systems. But in the particulars, many of the particulars are Arminian distinctives.

    Many systems share the claim of monergistic salvation (including Lutherans, evangelical Arminians, etc.), and even Rome affirms sola gratia formally, but this is not sufficient. TULIP and our ordo salutis may not be all there is to Calvinism, but one is sub-Calvinist without it.

    The irony is that Lutherans, baptists, and even Methodists don’t blunder the things that FV do. You can still find in their theology, however unbalanced, the law/Gospel distinction, an unequivocal sola fide (contra Sheperd), visible/invisible church distinction, nor do they apply the ordo salutis and blessings of the elect to non-elect church members. FV should be ashamed.

    “Wilkins can affirm every bit of the bolded portion of your quote. There is, indeed, a “grace that is peculiar to the elect [unto eternal life]”. But, for Wilkins, there is also a temporary grace that is peculiar to the non-elect covenant members”

    Sigh. Once again, the problem is in the specifics outlined above. Talking of “a” grace that is peculiar to the elect and “a” form of temporary grace does not exhonerate Wilkins from imputing SPECIFIC graces that belong to the elect to the non-elect.

    “The only real problem might be with the “new heart” language–certain FVers (James Jordan, really), find this language problematic, but I don’t know that Wilkins does. ”

    Well, that is a problem, isn’t it, since our confessions affirm it? And I’m not willing to give individual FV proponents any quarter for things like this – even moderates like Doug Wilson. FV proponents absolutely share in some of the responsibility for the beliefs and teachings of others within the movement. Wilson can’t just say things like “well, I may not necessarily agree with everything Lusk says” to exhonerate himself. You can’t write books with, hold conferences with, and in every other way hold hands with and play footsie under the table with the more “fringe” and explicitly unconfessional FV proponents and, indeed, identify yourself as a mutual “FV” believer and not bear some blame for those errors unless you are shouting from the rooftops “I may love my friend, Steve Wilkins/Lusk/Jordan/whoever, and we share many viewpoints and concerns but when he said X, Y, and Z, that was absolutely awful, cringes my Calvinistic heart, and I hope he takes the advice of his presbytery and recants of those things yesterday. That’s not what FV should be about”

    “(Think about it: if God gives me a “new heart” that is in and of itself “incorruptible”, then why would I need the Spirit? I will, henceforth, persevere on my own…)”

    I’ve thought about it. And the logic is, uh, less than convicting.

  165. December 12, 2006 at 4:34 pm

    Todd said:

    “And here’s Cleisner’s recent reponse: “We assert that Paul’s statement cited here entail by good and necessary consequence that all who are baptized in water will be eternally saved. We know and are grateful that Paul denies that consequence. But the fact remains that he wrote as he did, and we believe the Committee and Presbytery should call on Paul to retract some of what he wrote in light of its necessary consequence.””

    Paul’s statement would, indeed, entail by good and necessary consequence that “all who are baptized in water will be eternally saved, IF it was the case that Paul always defines “baptism” in his writing as the FV do (as always referring, at least implicitly, to water baptism).

  166. December 12, 2006 at 5:10 pm

    “Though I have tried to oblige you a bit by describing some of this difference”

    You have not described this difference at all. The closest you came to describing the distinction is as follows:

    “God has determined to reconcile Himself to one person in an everlasting way, and to another in a way that will not last, is itself indicative of a deep ontological difference between the two people.”

    That does not give us a fundamental or definitionally distinct understanding of “reconciliation” of the non-elect OTHER THAN in terms of chronology (or, at least, indicated by chronological signs).

    “No Christian can consistently believe that it is “sophistry” to assert distinctions which cannot be clearly defined. ”

    Your analogy doesn’t work, though. Not just because it is an imperfect analogy, but rather because it is illegitimate to assert a systematic category that has no cognitive and definitional content. You can’t just say “there is a distinction, but I don’t know how to define this term any differently other than saying one is not the other.” Doctrines, while sometimes mysterious, still require definition. That is a question of “what”, not a question of “how” (a question of mechanics). We can define WHAT the Trinity is, and we can define the distinction between the 1 (category of being) and the 3 (category of person). Is there some mystery? Yes, we do not comprehend it. And we cannot explain the mechanics of HOW this is true. But we do apprehend it. There is substantive content and definition to these categories. The same goes for the example you mention, regarding compitibalist freedom/human responsibility, etc. We can define the distinctions (compatibilist freedom is the freedom to do as you desire, libertarian freedom means that decisions are metaphysically uncaused) even if we cannot explain all of the “how’s.”

    Aside from the exegetical problems involving such an artificial distinction, on a pastoral level, it is utterly worthless to tell someone “you are in the covenant, so you for sure have (in some sense) reconciliation with God.”

    “What does it mean for me to be reconciled with God in this sense?”

    “I dunno, all I can say is that it DOESN’T mean that you are necessarily reconciled in the sense that the elect are (incorruptibly justified before God and given eternal life).”

    “Gee, thanks.”

  167. Gomarus said,

    December 12, 2006 at 5:46 pm

    Thanks, David, for taking the time to present you’re arguments against some elements of the FV in Lane’s absence. I find them compelling. Now get back to some meaningful posts on your own blog. :-) I plan to visit there on occasion.

  168. Todd said,

    December 12, 2006 at 9:36 pm

    “Paul’s statement would, indeed, entail by good and necessary consequence that “all who are baptized in water will be eternally saved, IF it was the case that Paul always defines “baptism” in his writing as the FV do (as always referring, at least implicitly, to water baptism).”

    This seems to be a very important admission, David. If Paul is talking about water baptism in Galatians 3:27, he could be justly accused of the same error that Wilkins is accused of: “We assert that Paul’s statement cited here entails by good and necessary consequence that all who are baptized in water will be eternally saved.”

    I’m not sure that Paul ever “defines” baptism. He seems, rather, to assume that his original readers will know what he’s talking about when he uses the word.

    So, is your view that Paul is speaking about something other than water baptism in Galatians 3:27? What, exactly? Can you argue for that view exegetically? If this is your view, Calvin, at least, is against you.

    In your view, does Paul ever refer to water baptism?

  169. December 12, 2006 at 10:54 pm

    “If Paul is talking about water baptism in Galatians 3:27, he could be justly accused of the same error that Wilkins is accused of: “We assert that Paul’s statement cited here entails by good and necessary consequence that all who are baptized in water will be eternally saved.””

    Actually this is worse – it is the error of Romanists (and even they would have to qualify it) and everyone else who holds to an ex opere operato view of the sacraments.

    Paul uses the term “baptism” to refer both to the sign of baptism (the sacrament, performed with water) as well as the reality, the “thing signified” in baptism (cleansing of sins, union with Christ, new heart, etc.). It depends on the context he uses it.

    But Calvin (in his commentary) is not this crass. He says that (in reference to Believers who make right use of the sacrament) “[Paul] then views them in connection with the truth — which they [the sacraments] represent.” This is the standard “sacramental” language that we see in the Westminster Confession:

    II. There is, in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.

    Beisner comments in the Knox Colloquium on Paul’s use of the term “baptism” in Romans 6:1ff (and this would apply to Galatians 3 usage similarly):

    “First, Paul did mean baptism – and the term baptism did not mean, primarily, a ritual application of water. Second, commentators argue in two ways that in Romans 6:1ff baptism does not denote the rite: (a) consistent application of that sense in the immediate context (verses 1-1) would yield the conclusion (contrary to other passages of Scripture) that all, without exception, who undergo the rite are regenerate, converted, justified, sanctified, and finally glorified, and (b) Paul himself, who certainly views circumcision and baptism as type and antitype (Colossians 2:11-12), had already written in the same epistle that it was not the rite of circumcision but the spiritual reality designated by it that differentiated the true (inward) Jew from false (outward) Jew (Romans 2:28-29). It stands to reason that he would affirm the same of baptism. The commentators do not…simply truck in their conclusion without reason. Third, the assumptions (if we may call them that) that drive that interpretation are rounded on sober attention to Biblical teaching about the difference between rite (sacraments) and realities (things signified), per, e.g., Isaiah 1:10-19; 29:13, Ezekiel 33:31; Matthew 15:8-9″

  170. Todd said,

    December 13, 2006 at 5:43 am

    David, in which Pauline passages do you see a straight forward reference to ritual baptism?

  171. December 13, 2006 at 11:40 am

    I Cor. 1

  172. Todd said,

    December 13, 2006 at 1:21 pm

    Is that it? Really? Does Paul never speak about water baptism except to report that he’s performed a few? Does he have nothing to say about what it means to be baptized with water in the name of Christ?

    If Paul *had* wanted to refer to water baptism in Galatians 3:27, how would he have made that referenece clear?

    Do you believe the Westminster Divines were wrong to append the proof texts from Romans 6 and Galatians 3 to their exposition of water baptism?

    Beisner writes: “commentators argue in two ways that in Romans 6:1ff baptism does not denote the rite.” Which commentators is he referring to here, David? How far back in Reformed history can you go and still find commentators on Romans who believe that Paul is not talking about the rite? Not Calvin, as we’ve seen. And not the Westminster assembly–Romans 6 is included in the proof texts for the section on baptism, the rite. If not them, who?

  173. December 13, 2006 at 1:29 pm

    It is clear from all four of your questions that you have not reflected on the import of the “sacramental language” that WCF talks about. Again:

    There is, in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.

    This relationship means that these passages DO tell us something about baptism as a rite. But that does not mean that what is attributed to “the thing signified” in those passages can likewise be attributed to the sign.

  174. Todd said,

    December 13, 2006 at 1:49 pm

    You’ve reversed the order of the reasoning in WCF and are pretending it says something it doesn’t. WCF says that, because of sacramental union, the names and effects of the one ARE attributed to the other. But you are saying that what is attributed to the one CANNOT be attributed to the other. How does your position follow from what WCF says here? It doesn’t say anything like, “Becasue of sacramental union, a biblical reference to the sign might really only be a reference to the thing signified and not to the sign at all.” It just doesn’t say that. I suspect you’re using the idea of sacramental UNION as a way to, ironically, drive a wedge between sign and thing signified in a way that the divines never intended. But I’m so open to being convinced.

    And check out the proof texts for this paragraph. Are any of their biblical examples doing anything like what you think is going on in Romans 6 and Galatians 3–a reference to the thing signified but not to the sign?

    These questions are still unanswered:

    1. What’s the oldest commentator you can name who holds that Paul “does not denote the rite” (Beisner’s language) when he says baptism in Romans 6?

    2. If Paul *had* wanted to refer to water baptism in Galatians 3:27, how would he have made that reference clear?

  175. Todd said,

    December 13, 2006 at 2:15 pm

    This is hot off the press–Wilkins’ written responses to questioning from his presbytery, from this Saturday, I believe. Audio will probably be available soon:

    http://auburnavenue.org/documents/wilkins_presbytery_response.htm

  176. December 13, 2006 at 3:52 pm

    Todd,

    Perhaps I should be clearer – the “attribution” I was talking about is not the “attribution” term used in WCF.

    WCF is talking about “attribution” in language. I was talking about attribution in metaphysics.

    WCF’s point is not that we, in our dogma, can make a metaphysical connection between the baptismal rite and salvation, but that the Bible uses language which “attributes” the effects and names of one to the other. “The names and effects of the one” shows that WCF indexes the metaphysics to the spiritual reality, although, in language, it says that the Bible attributes it to the sign. Even Leithart understands that this is precisely WCF’s point. Perhaps you are even further “out there” than Leithart.

    And, as you know, Lane has expounded upon this elsewhere:

    http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2006/09/24/the-sacraments/

    http://lisztgreenglove.blogspot.com/2006/09/romans-6-and-baptism.html

    If Paul had wanted to indicate water baptism in those verses, then there could have been contextual clues, such as those present in I Corinthians 1. Notice also that whenever the “spiritual” reality of baptism is in view, Paul talks in the passive voice “was/were baptized”, and when the ritual is in view he uses the active “I/he baptized you/him.”

    Calvin, of course, does not use our modern terms of “denotation” and such that Beisner does in his commentary and exegesis. Lane hits the real issue back in one of his old comboxes:

    “The question here is one of emphasis: does Paul talk about the sign, the thing signified, both, or in what degree both? ”

    Calvin says, essentially, both, as he uses the qualifier that Paul “views [water baptism] in connection with the truth — which they [the sacraments] represent.” This is exactly WCF’s point in talking of sacramental language.

    FV, following Rome, answers, essentially, “the sign.”

    Tellingly, you continue to ignore the heretical implications of the FV answer – an ex opere operato sacramentology. You can’t just shrug that off as somehow not pertaining to the exegesis here.

  177. December 13, 2006 at 4:17 pm

    “This is hot off the press–Wilkins’ written responses to questioning from his presbytery, from this Saturday, I believe. Audio will probably be available soon: ”

    Since I’m on a lunch break, I just glanced over it. It still shows, and indeed greatly confirms, what Lane and I have been saying here. Wilkins is following Wilson’s re-definition of the “invisible church” as the “eschatological church” which is, really a functional denial of it (his formal affirmations notwithstanding):

    “the invisible Church does not yet exist though it is surely foreordained by God and will surely and certainly exist at the last day (but then of course, it will exist as a very visible body). It is only “invisible” in that we can’t see all the members of it now.”

    The second sentence may not be objectionable if he only means that we can’t SEE the invisible church, but that the invisible church does exist NOW. But in the first sentence, he says that it DOESN’T exist now.

    “Christ has only one Bride and she is a Bride that is in the process of being perfected (sanctified and cleansed) for Him through time (Eph. 5:25-27) until that day when she shall be “spotless and without blemish.” Thus, the Church which throughout history had blemishes and imperfections, will finally be glorified and perfectly holy at the last day.”

    You see, he denies that the visible and invisble church BOTH EXIST NOW in favor of a single conception of the church as “only one Bride”, the only distinction being chronological. Today, it is the “historical church” but will be the “eschatological church” on the last day, although it will be the same Bride.

    This is inexcusable. Not especially that WCF 25.1 calls the invisible church Christ’s “spouse”.

    The whole point of I John, indeed, is that the visible and invisible church BOTH EXIST NOW and are intermingled. How can a Reformed minister miss this? Jumpin’ Jehosaphat!

    “this does not mean that there is such a thing as an “invisible Church” of which you must become a member.”

    Oh really? Nicodemus WAS a member of the covenant body of Israel, but Jesus said that he had to be born again (unto the invisible church).

  178. Xon said,

    December 13, 2006 at 5:18 pm

    David, this is all much too convluted (the multi-party dialogue taken in toto, I mean) to keep going with point-by-point responses. So, I’ll try to hit the high points without being pedantic.

    In fact, I have to run, so I’ll just pose a few questions, and try to come back later for a fuller treatment. But feel free to answer these before I come back.

    1. I think a change in relationship (at least when that realtionship is to God) IS an ontological change. I do not oppose them. Many FVers make this same point. Thus, I see no reason to opppose “chronological” with “ontological” so rigidly. The very same difference between Bob and Tom, a difference in how long they will be united to Christ, is itself an ontological difference. Question: What, if anything, do you think is the problem with this? In particular, why do you think such a view is unconfessional?

    2. I think that this ontological difference between Bob and Tom has “more” to it than just this chronological difference. Again, I think the chronological difference would be sufficient to establish an ontological difference, because relationality (of which chronological concerns are a part) and ontology are closely linked as I see things. But it so happens that I think the difference b/t Bob and Tom is even “more” than this. I think are any number of ways we can describe this difference: Bob has a ‘new heart’ that is wholly committed to Christ, while Tom has a ‘new heart’ that is not wholly committed to Christ. Bob has been grafted into the vine in a deep way, while Tom only in a shallow way, etc. Question: What’s wrong with this? And why is it unconfessional?

    3. Final one for now. What, exactly do you find unconvincing about the logic concerning “new hearts” that I mentioned earlier?

    Thanks.

  179. Todd said,

    December 13, 2006 at 5:32 pm

    “You see, he denies that the visible and invisble church BOTH EXIST NOW in favor of a single conception of the church as “only one Bride”, the only distinction being chronological.”

    The only distinction is chronological? Doesn’t Wilkins say that the eschatological church has had all its fruitless branches removed?

  180. December 13, 2006 at 8:33 pm

    Todd said:

    “The only distinction is chronological? Doesn’t Wilkins say that the eschatological church has had all its fruitless branches removed?”

    That would indeed be an ontological CHANGE WITHIN the church, but not an DISTINCTION between the visible and invisible churches.

  181. December 13, 2006 at 8:48 pm

    Xon,

    1. You said “The very same difference between Bob and Tom, a difference in how long they will be united to Christ, is itself an ontological difference. Question: What, if anything, do you think is the problem with this? ”

    I don’t have a problem with this, and although this seems to be your philosophical hobby horse, my arguments do not depend on it. The problem, AS I LAID OUT IN SPECIFIC DETAIL, is that it is not good enough to distinguish benefits given to the elect vs. benefits given to non-elect covenant members. It still does not make the required ontological distinctions that our confessions and Scripture compel us to. You are going to have to tackle these things with more specificity. Simply making the philosophical point that “chronologv is related to ontology” can’t get you there, and it won’t exhonerate Wilkins’ errors.

    2. You also said: “Bob has a ‘new heart’ that is wholly committed to Christ, while Tom has a ‘new heart’ that is not wholly committed to Christ. Bob has been grafted into the vine in a deep way, while Tom only in a shallow way, etc. Question: What’s wrong with this? And why is it unconfessional?”

    The latter example is not objectionable.

    The former example is objectionable – firstly because the Bible doesn’t speak of covenant members as having “new hearts.” That is language the belongs to regeneration – a benefit given only to the elect.

    Second, because it is simply contradictory to speak of having a “new heart” in any meaningful sense if the person still hates God, does not seek Him, etc. etc. Does Romans 3:9-20 give you the impression that this description could be compatible with a “new heart” applicable to non-elect, non-regenerate hypocrites in the covenant? Notice especially that this language here is applied even to Jew who are in the covenant.

  182. Todd said,

    December 13, 2006 at 9:17 pm

    “The former example is objectionable – firstly because the Bible doesn’t speak of covenant members as having “new hearts.” That is language the belongs to regeneration – a benefit given only to the elect.”

    1 Samuel 10:9?

  183. Todd said,

    December 13, 2006 at 9:19 pm

    David, any response to my questions in #174?

  184. December 13, 2006 at 9:38 pm

    Todd said:

    “1 Samuel 10:9?”

    This is a plain demonstration of your desperation in trying to defend that which is intellectually and Scripturally indefensible. Why on earth do you insist on these gymnastics to force these square views to fit into a round hole? This proves that you will throw up just about anything into the air in order to defend FV.

    I already answered #174 in my post (#176). If you have further questions, ask away.

  185. Xon said,

    December 13, 2006 at 11:52 pm

    I asked David:

    X1.1. You said “The very same difference between Bob and Tom, a difference in how long they will be united to Christ, is itself an ontological difference. Question: What, if anything, do you think is the problem with this?

    To which he responded:

    DG1“I don’t have a problem with this, and although this seems to be your philosophical hobby horse, my arguments do not depend on it. The problem, AS I LAID OUT IN SPECIFIC DETAIL, is that it is not good enough to distinguish benefits given to the elect vs. benefits given to non-elect covenant members. It still does not make the required ontological distinctions that our confessions and Scripture compel us to. You are going to have to tackle these things with more specificity. Simply making the philosophical point that “chronologv is related to ontology” can’t get you there, and it won’t exhonerate Wilkins’ errors.”

    But earlier, David (in #136), you made this criticism of certain FVers:

    DG2“Xon, you continue to act as if this debate is whether or not the FV formally profess various aspects of Reformed theology. Obviously, they do. The question is how their systems and formulations are consistent with this. Wilson affirms an ontological distinction, but the question is HOW CAN HE if we adopt his chronological definitions? This is a question of basic consistency.”

    Now, in DG2 you were responding directly to my earlier claim that “everyone in this conversation has granted that there is [an ontological] difference, as do all the FV people I’ve ever read.” I asserted simply that the FVers made an ontological distinction (this was in response to your claim in # that they did not). Your response was to say in DG2 (paraphrasing) that while they claim to make this distinction, they actually contradict it when they put the distinction in chronlogical terms. As you say in DG2, quoting directly, “This is a question of basic consistency.” Sure, Wilson affirms “an ontological distinction,” but you ask rhetorically “HOW CAN HE if we adopt his chronological definitions?”

    Now compare to DG1. The two phrases are mutually incompatible. You are moving the goalposts here. First FVers make no ontological distinction at all, at least not one that can be maintained once the “good and necessary consequence” of their chronological definitions are taken into account. When I counter that there is no need to pit the chronological (relational) against the ontological, you respond with a yawn and call this my “hobby horse” which has nothing to do with your objection to FV. You don’t mind a metaphysic that ties relationality and ontology together, you now say, but rather your objection is to the “specific” elements of the FV formulae. They affirm an ontological distinction, sure, and this distinction is not (now, all of a sudden) inconsistent with their chronological formulations, but it is instead deficient because it is simply not the right kind of ontological distinction.

    I will respond directly regarding these specifics, and in fact I think I have already done so in this conversation thread (contrary to your repeated triumphalism that “nobody has even tried to answer this”). But first it needs to be pointed out, one more time for good measure, that your critique has NOT been a consistent “it’s the specifics, stupid” approach throughout this thread. You charged FVers with denying “any ontological distinction at all” several times in this thread, and did so on the basis that their “chronological definitions” were simply inconsistent with such a distinction. I’m glad that you now are willing to admit (even if implicitly) that this former charge was without merit.

    “The former example is objectionable – firstly because the Bible doesn’t speak of covenant members as having “new hearts.” That is language that belongs to regeneration – a benefit given only to the elect.”

    But this is not the Biblical language about “regeneration” at all. The Scriptures speak of “the regeneration” as the world of the new birth into which believers are born. We are ‘born again’, so to speak, and this means dying to this world and being raised up into a new world. It’s not a matter of having some internal change take place in our “hearts.” Now, the language of internal change and “new hearts” certainly fits with Westminsterian terminology about regeneration, and that’s fine (because ST and BT need not be opposed). But, again ad nauseum, when Westminster says that only the elect get X, this does not mean that we cannot speak of a different sense of X that the non-elect get as well. And, no, this does not have to be carefully distinguished every single time the word is used, unless you (to bring us all the way back to Todd’s original points in this very long thread) are willing to charge the Biblical writers themselves with being ambiguous and ‘unclear.’

    You will contend at this point that you have demonstrated an inconsistency in the way FVers speak of X (whether X is justification, regeneration, etc.) and the way Westminster uses the term, and this is the problem with FV. It is not the simple daring to use the Westminsterian terms differently than Westminster uses them that you object to, but rather the specific use of these terms that FVers employ. Again, you will say that this point about the specifics have not and cannot be refuted, world without end, amen. Again, all in due time, precious.

    “Second, because it is simply contradictory to speak of having a “new heart” in any meaningful sense if the person still hates God, does not seek Him, etc. etc. Does Romans 3:9-20 give you the impression that this description could be compatible with a “new heart” applicable to non-elect, non-regenerate hypocrites in the covenant? Notice especially that this language here is applied even to Jew who are in the covenant.

    Hmm, I’m afraid I don’t see that this passage confirms of disconfirms either of our positions. Paul is here describing the general problem of the human condition under sin. Everyone is born under sin in a way that makes them unable to do right, but some are brought out of this condition. All people, Jew and Gentile, are under sin and are unable to please God, unless God rescues them. But nothing in this logic of depravity (in the text explicitly, or by implication) entails that some cannot be rescued from this condition in a temporary way, while others might be so in an enduring way. All humans have (at least originally) this “sin problem,” and that is not in dispute. The disagreement we are having is over whether the sinful human race should be (ontologically) divided into two basic categories or three:

    Your binary taxonomy has it that every “under sin” person (i.e. everybody) is either 1.finally elect or 2. never elect. God either rescues a person out of the consequences and reign of his sin in a way that lasts forever, or He does not rescue them at all.

    On my “trinary” taxonomy (and, trinitarianly, we must say that 3 is always better than 2, so I win!) every “under sin” person (i.e. everybody) is either 1. finally elect or 2. temporarily elect (i.e. elected to be temporarily united to Christ in a real and “ontologically” changing way) or 3. never elect. On my view, there is a category of person who has been renewed by God’s spirit in a way that the rank pagan has not, but who has not been renewed in such a way that his faith will last. He is ontologically different than the pagan, but also ontologically different than the finally elect.

    Now, I don’t see how the text of Romans 3 addresses this disagreement between us at all. It simply isn’t about which taxonomy of fallen human is most appropriate. Perhaps you are seeing something I am not?

  186. Xon said,

    December 14, 2006 at 12:05 am

    I hope the jesting intent of my “I win!” comment was obvious.

    What is wrong with Todd’s bringing up Saul as an example of Biblical ‘new heart’ language that doesn’t seem to entail one is finally elect? You have decided a number of times in this conversation to respond to our arguments by simply claiming that they show how “desperate” our “indefensible” our position is. Our very argument lays bare the bankruptcy of our position. As a philosopher, I’m plenty interested in this kind of critique of someon’e position, but you still have to demonstrate it somehow, not merely assert it. And, speaking as a Christian, I wish you would give consideration to coming alongside a brother and gently showing him his error. If our position is really so pathetic, then show some pathos and help a brutha out. I keep adding 2 and 2 and getting five, apparently. Pity me, fine, but do not abandon me.

  187. Xon said,

    December 14, 2006 at 12:08 am

    “You see, he denies that the visible and invisble church BOTH EXIST NOW in favor of a single conception of the church as “only one Bride”, the only distinction being chronological.”

    But I thought that you agreed that a chronological distinction can also be an ontological distinction?

  188. Xon said,

    December 14, 2006 at 12:38 am

    I had said:

    X2“God has determined to reconcile Himself to one person in an everlasting way, and to another in a way that will not last, is itself indicative of a deep ontological difference between the two people.”

    David G responded like this:

    DG3“That does not give us a fundamental or definitionally distinct understanding of “reconciliation” of the non-elect OTHER THAN in terms of chronology (or, at least, indicated by chronological signs).

    Okay, we’re talking past each other here. I want to know why a chronological difference between Bob and Tom, even one in which the only signs of the distinction are indicated chronologically, cannot also be an ontological difference. It seems to me that a chronological difference IS an ontological difference (at least when God is involved). I am not simply saying that there might be a “union” b/w ontology and chronology. I am saying that ontology is in part defined by chronology (more properly, relationality). Chronology IS ontology.

    But, I ALSO believe that there is an ontological difference “beyond” this chronological difference (though I don’t think this is necessary that an orthodox Reformed theologian believe this). This ontological difference is a bit harder to “define” in a rigorous way, though. Because human beings are complex, because I can’t see hearts and psyches, and because it seems to me that the dominant Scriptural method for telling trees apart is by their fruit. It’s not looking at the tree in the middle of winter (when there is no fruit) and “discerning” what kind of tree it is. It’s waiting until fruit time, and seeing if it has any (or, more properly, what kind it has). But even when we see the fruit, it presents itself in a wide variety of ways. Some seem to come into the kingdom and stay in. Others seem to come in and drop out like the hokey-pokey. Others come in with gusto and after much time fall out again. Others seem hazy and lukewarm for the longest time and then get serious. How am I supposed to “define the ontological difference” between all these people? Besides, that is, the simple assertion that some of them are elected to eternal union with Christ, some are elected to temporary union with Him, and some are elected to never union with Him. I affirm that these different unions reflect a difference in ‘kind’ between the three types of people, but I’ll be darned if I know how to “define” the difference, other than in terms of the decrees that I just mentioned.

    Honestly, I think I would be helped if you perhaps gave your own definition. How do you “define the distinction” between elect and non-elect ontology? Are you doing it in terms of the Ephesians 1-style gifts they possess (or do not possess)? But I can do this, too, except that I of course (along with Wilkins) would also assert a form of those same gifts possessed by the temporarily elect covenant members. Ah, but Xon how do you tell the temp gifts apart from the perm gifts, on the front end? I don’t know! But why am I required to do so?

    I’m really just having trouble understanding what it is you think an FVer should be able to do in order to affirm a genuine ontological distinction, and why they should be able to do it. I’m not being obtuse, I genuinely do not get it. I affirm that they are different. On the one hand, my first point about chronology partially defining ontology seems sufficient to say that there is an ontological difference, and this difference has been “defined” (at least partly). On the other hand, even outside of the chronlogy it seems to me that, while I cannot define the ontology clearly, I still apprehend it, and I’m still not sure why you disagree.

  189. December 14, 2006 at 2:00 am

    Xon said:

    “As you say in DG2, quoting directly, “This is a question of basic consistency.” Sure, Wilson affirms “an ontological distinction,” but you ask rhetorically “HOW CAN HE if we adopt his chronological definitions?””

    ‘But in the sense I was using “ontological distinction” I wasn’t just refering to ANY ontological distinction in general (which would encompass chronology). Obviously, my nomenclature here is my narrow than your usage of that term.

    I can simply re-formulate what I said, then, using your terminology and still have the same “net” argument. Something like this:

    ‘If the only ontological distinction Wilson makes is one of a chronological nature, then how can he affirm the confessional/biblical ontological distinctions’

    Notice Wilson’s flow of thought in his argument – he is not saying that they are both/and. He says that one (the visible/invisible church) is REDUCIBLE to (or simply a reformulation of) the other (chronological).

    To adopt your nomenclature, if the ONLY ontological distinction is chronological, then this denies the fact that the Bible and our confessions speak of the distinction in terms of our judicial standing before God, regeneration by the Spirit, etc. etc.

    “They affirm an ontological distinction, sure, and this distinction is not (now, all of a sudden) inconsistent with their chronological formulations, but it is instead deficient because it is simply not the right kind of ontological distinction.”

    No, this is a mere matter of sematics (that I don’t care to quibble with much more). The confessions don’t speak of “ontology” in general, they speak of SPECIFICS. That was the sense I was using it (not the broader philosophical sense). Romanism and Arminianism can admit of “ontological distinctions” in the abstract.

    The logical structure of my argument, therefore, has not changed.

    This would be like me saying “we are saved by faith, not works.”

    Then you say “but, philosophically, faith is a type of work.”

    “OK, I can agree with it in that sense, but my original terminology was in context of Paul’s usage of the faith/works dichotomy.”

    “You’re moving the goalposts!”

    ————–

  190. Xon said,

    December 14, 2006 at 2:41 am

    Finally, on to “the specifics.”

    “And it is in those SPECIFIC distinctions, that Wilkins fails to make, that puts him outside of our confessions….Agreed, but again this cannot exhonerate Wilkins when it comes to those non-negotiable specifics….Again, my criticisms concern specifics – WHAT are the differences they admit? The structure of your argument seems to be “FV acknowledges continuity (albeitwhile also acknowledging some discontinuity) between elect and non-elect covenant members. Calvin also acknowledges continuity (of some sort). Therefore FV must be OK.” I was responding to this. That is only half an argument…..Once again, the problem is in the specifics outlined above. Talking of “a” grace that is peculiar to the elect and “a” form of temporary grace does not exhonerate Wilkins from imputing SPECIFIC graces that belong to the elect to the non-elect.” (#164)

    Particularly, the problem is with the portion of Wilkins’ essay in the FV book where he explicitly attributes Ephesians 1 (as well as other passages, but for simplicity I will just refer to these as Eph. 1 et. al) blessings to all members of the covenant, rather than making the much more common Reformed move of attributing these to the finally elect only. “That list is precisely where the problem is.” Let’s call these blessings “The List” for simplicity’s sake.

    So, what, specifically, is wrong with these specifics of Wilkins’ view?

    “And the problem that Wilkins, specifically, runs into is in claiming that those who are covenantally united to Christ are also VITALLY united to Christ and have all the blessings in the heavenly places. This is an inexcusable blunder.

    Define “vitally.” If by this term you mean that they have a new life that will never end, then this is not what Wilkins asserts (nor does anything he say entail this). If vitally, though, means something like “living” in the sense that these folks are united to Christ in a real way that brings them a new life, different than the kind of life they knew when they were rank pagans, that ‘plugs them in’ somehow to the Author and Controller of all life in a way that pagans are not ‘plugged in’, then sure Wilkins says this. What of it? ;-)

    I suggested what the argument form against Wilkins needs to look like in order to prove that he goes wrong in these specifics (i.e., that he is wrong to list Ephesians 1 et al blessings as being in any sense attributable to all covenant members). This is why I said, several comments ago now (# 184) that I think I have already offered some direct response to this argument from Wilkins’ specifics. I argued then, and am about to argue again, that a valid (even just an apparently valid) argument against Wilkins’ orthodoxy based on The List or based on any other way he might distinguish between finally elect and non-finally-elect covenant members has not been provided. Not even the undefeatable super-argument against The List which none of us FVers dare approach counts, for it is not a valid argument. A valid argument against Wilkins/FV will have to establish three sub-claims something like the following:

    (a)“that confessional Calvinism requires the ontological similarities and differences between Bob and Tom to be divided up a particular way, (b) that FVers [such as Wilkins] don’t do it this way, and (c) that failing to do it in this way is a non-negotiable for confessional Calvinism.” (Let’s call this argument form EXXON, since it came “out of” the mouth of Xon.)

    Note that all three of (a)-(c) must be established in order to conclude that Wilkins or other FVers are outside the bounds of confessional Calvinism on this issue (assuming strict subscriptionism is bad church polity). I went on to boldly assert that “nothing like this sort of an argument has been presented.” To this David G responds like this:

    “The whole reason I pointed to the specific “list” of Wilkins’ is to show PRECISELY how the distinctions are divided up “in a particular way”, and how Wilkins departs from the confessional distinctions at these points.

    Ah, but notice how even this way of putting things does not meet your argumentative burden under EXXON. At best, the claims of the preceding paragraph can only establish (a) and (b). But (c) is yet-to-be-argued for. Why, exactly, is it essential to confessional Calvinism that a person distinguish between finally and non-finally elect covenant members (henceforth FANFECOM) in precisely the way that Westminster does? More particularly, regarding The List, why is it essential to confessional Calvinism that Ephesians 1 et. al be interpreted in this particular way that you demand? Why can’t it just be the case that some good Reformed ministers have made a boo-boo on these particular passages?

    Another way to put it is like this: by themselves (a) and (b) only seem to be an argument that Wilkins should take an exception to the WC on this particular point. But, unless we be strict subscriptionists (and, for the vast majority of the PCA, we be not), this cannot by itself entail that Wilkins is defrockable. You need (c). But where is the argument for (c)?

    “It is telling that you cannot defend, head-on, these particular statements of Wilkins. It is precisely at these points that the confessions say NO! – you cannot impute “all the blessings in the heavenly places”, the blessings of Romans 8, I Corinthians, and Ephesians 1 to non-elect covenant members.

    Why not? I mean, speaking as a matter of confessional necessity, why not? You have to do two things here:

    1. Establish that the WS teach that this is the only proper interpretation of Ephesians 1 et al. (And, of course, the proof-texts themselves are non-binding, so this will be difficult. But not necessarily impossible.) This would correspond to proving both (a) and (b) of EXXON. I think that generally our better bet is to show, not that any partiuclar interpetation of any particular Scriptural passage is necessary, but just that the “final theological position” you come to, no matter what Scriptures you use or how you interpret them, is supposed to be the “TR” view. So, forget particular passages, you need to believe that all these blessings go to the finally elect and only to the finally elect, period. I am not sold that you can argue this successfully either (that Westminster requires this one view of things), but I am very open to it on my own reading of the places where the Confession speaks of “only” the elect this or that.

    2. Establish that holding a different interpretation such as Wilkins’ is such a bad mis-reading of the text that it causes one’s entire theology to go awry in a way that is non-negotiably out-of-bounds with confessional Calvinistic orthodoxy. This would correspond to proving (c) of EXXON.

    “Heavenly Days McGee! How can any self-professed Calvinist not see this as blatantly anti-confessional and unreformed on a fundamental and systematic level?

    Well, I am sorry to frustrate you so, but like I said in an earlier comment, we can’t have a meaningful discussion if you won’t take the time to explain what you think the problem is with this. Just when I think we’re getting to the issue, you choose to come back with a response along the lines of “If this is your argument, then you have no argument”. Well, no matter how obvious you think that is, you need to make it clear. Show your work. :-)

    I had said:

    “The real question is, do the WS require that all orthodox Reformed people interpret these passages in the “TR” way? ”

    DG responded:

    “Well, I suppose there is an outside possibility that if one translates John 1:1 as “the Word was a god” that one could remains orthodox in theology (affirming the Nicene Creed), but the chance is pretty slim. Even if so, would you expect such a minister who is that blatantly double-minded and incompetent to remain a minister in good-standing at the next meeting of presbytery?

    Objection, your honor, nonresponsive. (It is late, let me have my fun). We’re not talking about John 1:1, but about Ephesians 1 et al. Certainly some passages, when mis-interpreted in certain ways, lead to problems with one’s theology that are intolerable. This is, in fact, exactly what I expect you to argue about this particular passage (Ephesians 1, not John 1:1). I expect you to argue that Wilkins’ use of The List represents an intolerable (Calvinistically-speaking) mis-interpretation of Ephesians 1 et al because it causes Wilkins’ theology to go awry in intolerable (Calvinistically-speaking) ways. (Again, the ‘real issue’ is not how you read a particular passage, but how your theology “comes down” once all your exegesis is done. Again, because the proof-texts themselves are non-binding.) This would bear the burden and so fulfill the law of EXXON. So I’m expecting the argument, but where is it, yo?

    “One would have to say that the all of the terms and blessings in Romans 8/Ephesians 1/I Cor. and all the blessings “in the heavenly places” are DEFINED DIFFERENTLY than the category of blessings given to the elect only. So non-elect members are “justified, forgiven of sins, had their sins paid for by Christ, interceded for by Christ etc. etc.” differently that elect members are. But Wilkins does not define them differently. He never tells us what it could mean to be temporarily “justified”, for instance, in a way different than elect members are justified. He never demonstrates the existence of this distinction, much less defines the substance of this distinction, much less justifies the distinction from the Bible. In fact, Wilkins’ whole point, and the structure of his argument presumes, that these are in fact the same blessings.

    Perhaps the distinction is not in the blessings themselves, but in the “way” they are received or possessed. Much as one must eat the bread and drink the wine “in faith” or else the blessings of the Supper are not effective. Yet the bread and wine are the same for the person who eats in faith and for the person who eats in unbelief. It’s the same bread and the same wine. But it produces different results based on the way it is received. (This, or something like it, is my understanding of Calvin’s view of the Supper.)

    Or rinse, lather, and repeat with the “free offer”. Everyone hears the same message, but only those who respond in faith actually “get it”. And of course it is God who gives the faith, too.

    “That is the necessary consequence of saying that “ALL BLESSINGS in the heavenly places” apply to the non-elect covenant members. All really does mean all here. That leaves no logical room for OTHER blessings that apply only to the elect. This problem is insuperable.

    It does not seem insuperable if we allow for the possibility just mentioned, that all the blessings are possessed by the elect in one ontologically-changing way (though this ontological change may be defined primarily in terms of chronology–i.e. a permanent relational change), and by the non-elect covenant members in a different but still ontologically-changing way (though this ontological change may be defined primarily in terms of a temporary relational change and a later return to the original relational state.)

    Again, I think it is helpful to think of the earlier taxonomies I suggested: how many “kinds” of human beings are there, biblically speaking? Just two (those who are ‘in’ forever and those who are never ‘in’ at all), or three (those who are ‘in’ forever, those who are ‘in’ only temporarily, and those who are never ‘in’ at all)? People like Wilkins (and myself) say 3, but the “TR” view seems to be that it is only the 2.

    Now, Westminster clearly talks about the sorts of blessings on The List as going to those who are finally elect. And obviously the non-finally-elect never receive those blessings in that way. But the question is: Can those non-finally-elect can be broken into two further groups, those who languish un-united to Christ always and those who are united temporarily but not lastingly? (let’s call this question TEMPU) Really, to speak again in terms of EXXON, there are two questions here:

    1. Does Westminster require a particular answer to TEMPU?

    2. Is this an essential matter of Reformed orthodoxy?

    If the answer to 1. is “Yes”, and if the required answer is the “TR” answer, then clearly Wilkins should take an exception to the WS at this point. (Please note that I do not grant this at this point, but in light of Westminsterian language about how “only” the elect receive such-and-such, I am heavily inclined to accept it.) But should he be defrocked? Is he out-of-bounds, or is this a non-essential? That question falls to 2, and the burden of proof is (obviously) on those who would defrock him as unorthodox. But where’s the beef?

    “The fact that Wilkins does not have this distinction in mind, and that he believes this set of blessings listed to be the same set given to the elect, is that he uses PRECISELY THESE BLESSINGS to ground assurance of salvation to covenant members.

    Sure he does, because it is here and nowhere else that the merciful God can be found. God, in His mercy, has made these blessings “available” to everyone who is baptized (I speak in the same way we speak of the “free offer of the Gospel,” despite the fact that God elects some to receive that offer and some not to). God has called the entire church of Ephesus to Himself. He has taken them under his wing of protection. He has united them to Christ in such a way that they possess all the benefits that Christ possesses. Yet the kingdom is not fully consummated yet, and we only possess these blessings in a ‘veiled’ way, by faith. But what if some of us later fall into unbelief? What if people stop trusting God, stop believing that these gifts really are theirs? Then they will die like the Israelites in the desert. And God will have decreed it from the beginning. But, so long as they believe, the promises really are for them, the benefits really are theirs, etc. Just as we say to all unbelievers “whosoever will, let him come,” and this in no way compromises Calvinism (does it? DOES IT???), we say to those who are in covenant with God “whosoever leans upon the good mercy of God to provide all their needs, has all their needs met. Whosoever will, let him believe the promises of God.” And this is not just a pseudo-promise to these people, but a real promise. If you believe God that these blessings are yours, then they ARE yours! (And God decreed them to be yours). But if you only believe temporarily, then they will stop being yours. Why? Because God changed His mind about your election? No, because God apparently only elected you to believe for a time. He only elected to protect you and gift you with his blessings for a time. He only elected to give you faith for a time. (God decreed them to be yours for a while, but not forever.) But, just as it is true of the non-believer that if he had accepted the Gospel then he would have been saved, we have the same subjunctive truth here for covenant members who fall away into unbelief. If you had continued to have faith, then you would have possessed those blessings forever.

    Again, I am open to this view constituting an exception to Westminster. But arguing that it is outside the bounds of Reformed orthodoxy altogether is a much longer road to hoe. In this day and age, with the Church split into thousands of pieces, for people whose theologies are 90% in common to countenance division over this would be a real bummer.

    I really want to say something (at all? more?) about assurance here, but I’m really just too tired. Maybe tomorrow.

  191. December 14, 2006 at 3:24 am

    “But this is not the Biblical language about “regeneration” at all. The Scriptures speak of “the regeneration” as the world of the new birth into which believers are born. We are ‘born again’, so to speak, and this means dying to this world and being raised up into a new world.”

    This smears the issue. The dogmatic category of regeneration is indexed to the biblical language about being “born again” and being given “hearts of flesh”, etc. We may talk of “being raised up into a new world”, but that isn’t the point of the dogmatic category.

    Anyway, this still brings us back to the fact that there is zero exegesis to back up applying a “new heart” to the non-elect. Simply pointing out the broader Scriptural usage of “regeneration” does nothing to effect that.

    “But nothing in this logic of depravity (in the text explicitly, or by implication) entails that some cannot be rescued from this condition in a temporary way, while others might be so in an enduring way. All humans have (at least originally) this “sin problem,” and that is not in dispute.”

    Wrong. The passage is stating that Jews, under the covenant, have this position before God NOW. As members of the covenant community. This, supposedly, would have “rescued them from this condition in a temporary way”, but the text says that they are no better off that the Gentiles.

    “1. finally elect or 2. temporarily elect (i.e. elected to be temporarily united to Christ in a real and “ontologically” changing way) or 3. never elect.”

    If “elect” meaning here is indexed to the ordo salutis of Romans 8, then it is logically untenable.

    If “elect” here just refers to covenantal election, then Wilkins would not be in the dock. Again, he has Romans 8 in mind.

    “What is wrong with Todd’s bringing up Saul as an example of Biblical ‘new heart’ language that doesn’t seem to entail one is finally elect?”

    Because simply pointing out that God changes someone’s heart to do X action or choice is not the same thing as God changing the heart fundamentally to be disposed to love God and accept his grace. There are common operations of the Spirit, as everyone agrees.

    “But I thought that you agreed that a chronological distinction can also be an ontological distinction?”

    See above.

    “This ontological difference is a bit harder to “define” in a rigorous way, though. Because human beings are complex, because I can’t see hearts and psyches, and because it seems to me that the dominant Scriptural method for telling trees apart is by their fruit.”

    Indeed, we tell individual trees apart by their fruit, but we do not say that, in principle, all trees are the same except that some bear good fruit and the others don’t (or that some bear fruit for a while and others bear fruit permanently).

    Your problem is that the confessions DO tell us what the ontological differences between the elect and non-elect covenant members are (above and beyond the chronological ontological distinction). And they don’t seem to have as hard a time as you seem to in doing it.

    “Honestly, I think I would be helped if you perhaps gave your own definition. How do you “define the distinction” between elect and non-elect ontology? Are you doing it in terms of the Ephesians 1-style gifts they possess (or do not possess)? But I can do this, too, except that I of course (along with Wilkins) would also assert a form of those same gifts possessed by the temporarily elect covenant members. Ah, but Xon how do you tell the temp gifts apart from the perm gifts, on the front end? I don’t know! But why am I required to do so?”

    This is not a debate about whether we can tell “on the front end” regarding INDIVIDUALS and their state. It is about telling, in principle, what the nature of persevering elect members is in distinction from those who don’t.

    This principle has application in hindsight. If someone like Peter perseveres to the end, it is because Peter has been justified, born again, etc. If someone like Judas falls away, it is because, as Jesus said “I never knew [him]” and, as John said “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” Those aren’t chronological distinctions at all. Indeed, the chronological changes (apostacy/judgment, being put out of the Kingdom) are GROUNDED IN their status before God and in relation to true saints.

    Exegetically, it is still laughable to impute the gifts of Ephesians 1, Romans 8, I Corinthians to non-elect people. All 3 of those texts list perseverence among those gifts.

    There is still the problem of the “all blessings in the heavenly places” language here. Not just some, but ALL the blessings.

    And, again, if you are going to propose alternate definitions of terms like “Justify, forgiveness of sins, etc.” that somehow apply to the non-elect then you have to index them to some biblical content in definition. Westminster indexes the meaning of its terms to explicit expositions of these concepts as well as contextual qualifications.

    Now let’s say that we postulate the existence of a “justification” that the non-elect have. What does it mean? Does that mean that these people (at least temporarily) have been imputed Christ’s righteousness? If not, what does it mean? If so, then this commits FV to say that the non-elect have all of the things connected with being imputed Christ’s righteousness in Romans, including having “peace with God” (notice, NOT a temporary cease-fire with God) and will be glorified. Paul’s exposition ties it all together. This is the problem with trying to create a “parallel” set of definitions or categories that are sub-salvific (in the decretally elect sense).

    If you wish to remain relatively agnostic as to their definition (other than saying that one is temporary and the other is not), then this has zero pastoral value. No one is going to praise God for terms that have no cognitive content. “I’m reconciled with God, but I don’t know what this means other than that I’m not necessarily reconciled with God in the Westminster sense. Hurray!”

    But I repeat the problem – Wilkins’ recent reply confirms that he is agnostic as to what the difference in these categories is (other than temporal). But, wait, then he seems to shift and think that there is a great deal of pastoral value here – because he grounds his doctrine of assurance to these covenantal blessings. But having such assurance would assume that those categories have the full-blown Westminster senses.

    What a train wreck of a theology.

  192. December 14, 2006 at 4:41 am

    “But, unless we be strict subscriptionists (and, for the vast majority of the PCA, we be not), this cannot by itself entail that Wilkins is defrockable. You need (c). But where is the argument for (c)?”

    Notice that Wilkins does not dare register such exceptions. Why? Because no presbytery in the PCA, OPC, or any conservative WS denomination will allow someone to take exceptions to so many portions of the confessions – on election, justification, assurance, perseverence, the church, and the sacraments. Holy toledo! Exceptions cannot be that broad nor that fundamental in nature. Would any presbytery, anywhere say that these things do not “strike at the vitals of religion” in distinction from, say, taking exception to the WS view of recreation on the sabbath? This is a pragmatic argument, but I think it is common sense. It is not some tactical error on Wilkins’ part that he won’t simply register such exceptions.

    But what, more objectively, gives us an idea of where the “pale” of Reformed orthodoxy is, you ask? Those areas where the Reformed confessions agree is a good start. Say, taking exception to the WS Sabbath does not put one at odds with the 3 Forms of Unity. And adopting doctrines that are distinctives of Romanism or Arminiasm would certainly put one out of the pale of Reformed confessionalism.

    “I expect you to argue that Wilkins’ use of The List represents an intolerable (Calvinistically-speaking) mis-interpretation of Ephesians 1 et al because it causes Wilkins’ theology to go awry in intolerable (Calvinistically-speaking) ways. (Again, the ‘real issue’ is not how you read a particular passage, but how your theology “comes down” once all your exegesis is done. Again, because the proof-texts themselves are non-binding.)”

    Ahhh, but you can’t make such a concrete separation between exegetical and dogmatic theology. If my exegesis says “Jesus is a god” does this not tell you something about my dogmatic beliefs?

    Let me get more specific, though. If Wilkins says that the non-elect can be “justified, forgiven of sins, etc.” AND THEN INDEXES THOSE DEFINITIONS to the same Scriptural passages that Westminster indexes IT’S terms (applying them only to the elect), then there is a problem of unequivocal substance, not simply semantics (non-standard terminology) or complementary realities (parallel senses of being “justified”).

    Confessionally, one is not required to “sign on” to all of the prooftexts as all being polemically necessary to justify the confession’s doctrine, but insofar as the Scriptural expositions and definitions form the backdrop of the confessional terminology (from an exegetical/hermeneutical standpoint in our reading of the confessions) then one is bound to it. Westminster’s doctrine of justification would literally have no meaning if Paul’s use of the term “justify” in Romans is not the substance of it. And, again, Paul ties this concept together with perseverence inextricably.

    Indeed, if we follow Wilkins, there is no place in the New Testament at all that Westminster could conceivably index it’s conception of justification if you chop down all of the key proof-texts as he has done. Indeed, if we keep following his hermeneutic, all the NT is talking about blessings given to all covenant members without exception (because, he reasons, it is ridiculous for us to believe that Paul speaks to his audience in an undifferentiated manner out of convention or charity rather than strict actuality).

    “Or rinse, lather, and repeat with the “free offer”. Everyone hears the same message, but only those who respond in faith actually “get it”. And of course it is God who gives the faith, too.”

    Unfortunately, this exit door out of the burning building is also locked.

    Neither Scripture nor Wilkins are talking about possessing the gifts in terms of merely being OFFERED the gifts, but, rather, having the gifts – they ARE JUSTIFIED, FORGIVEN OF SINS, etc. (although, Wilkins claims, for a short time only).

    “Again, I think it is helpful to think of the earlier taxonomies I suggested: how many “kinds” of human beings are there, biblically speaking? Just two (those who are ‘in’ forever and those who are never ‘in’ at all), or three (those who are ‘in’ forever, those who are ‘in’ only temporarily, and those who are never ‘in’ at all)? People like Wilkins (and myself) say 3, but the “TR” view seems to be that it is only the 2.”

    If “in” means in the covenant, anyone could agree who is Reformed. But if “in” means having the blessings of Romans 8, then the answer must be 2 if I John 2 and Matthew 7:23 can make sense.

    “Now, Westminster clearly talks about the sorts of blessings on The List as going to those who are finally elect. And obviously the non-finally-elect never receive those blessings in that way. But the question is: Can those non-finally-elect can be broken into two further groups, those who languish un-united to Christ always and those who are united temporarily but not lastingly?”

    But Wilkins says that the List DOES apply to the non-elect (although only temporarily).

    Yes, the non-elect can be broken into two further groups, as un-elect covenant members and un-elect heathen. But the un-elect covenant members are only united to Christ covenantally and in non-salvific operations of the Spirit, not united in the sense that The List defines it.

    “Sure he does, because it is here and nowhere else that the merciful God can be found. God, in His mercy, has made these blessings “available” to everyone who is baptized”

    Wrong. Wilkins was speaking of a supposedly “infallible” assurance – not merely an opportunity. Salvation merely being available does not assure anyone that they have actually availed themselves of said available salvation.

  193. Todd said,

    December 14, 2006 at 7:25 am

    Wow. Tons of work has been done overnight. I’m enjoying watching the discussion between David and Xon unfold.

    Here are the questions I’ve asked Xon but haven’t receieved an answer for:

    1. What’s the oldest commentator you can name who holds that Paul “does not denote the rite” (Beisner’s language) when he says baptism in Romans 6?

    2. If Paul *had* wanted to refer to water baptism in Galatians 3:27, how would he have made that reference clear?

  194. pduggie said,

    December 14, 2006 at 9:34 am

    responding to 191:

    Paul’s understanding of Justifcation comes out of the jewish view of the united torah. (the Law of Moses).

    The WCF’s reformed theology’s view of Justification comes out of the general revelational view of the natural moral law, which is a distinct abstract of the Torah. So it shouldn’t suprise us at all that the WCF looks at passages where Paul discusses things in terms of his torah-centric views, and ‘translates’ them into a natual moral law context that is a derivative of the way the bible actually expresses the functioning of law and righteousness.

  195. Xon said,

    December 14, 2006 at 10:22 am

    Todd, you mean that you asked David those questions. Not me.

  196. Todd said,

    December 14, 2006 at 11:06 am

    Indeed I did. I didn’t even stay up late last night, and I’m still losing it. Thanks, Xon.

  197. Xon said,

    December 14, 2006 at 11:20 am

    David G,

    Pretend that there is a village of idiots disputing about cats and dogs.

    Pretend that all members of the village are bound to hold their beliefs in accord with a confessional document, and that one portion of this document reads that “Dogs have the best fur in the universe, and only dogs have fur of this caliber.” (This confessional statement is generally referenced as “Credo Idiotarum III.27, or CI 3.27)

    One school of thought in the village says that all and only dogs are furry. Not only is dog furriness the ‘best’ kind of furriness, but it is actually the only kind of furriness. All dogs are furry, and nothing that is not a dog is furry.

    The second school of thought says that all dogs are furry, and that dog furriness is the best kind of furriness, but some cats are furry, too, in their own way. So a basic position of the second school is just that, at least in some sense, we can call both (all dogs and some cats) “furry” and speak the truth by so calling them.

    Finally, pretend that there is another document in the village, a disputed religious text on this very matter that has been handed down from village elders of long ago. The text reads “Those who cannot climb trees have fur most bright, soft, clean, and grey,” and is referred to as “Book of Trees and Other Fun Things, chapter 2 verse 5″ (or just Trees 2:5).

    Now, the first school of thought, the exclusive caninists, is the dominant position in the village, held by the majority of scholars. They read Trees 2:5 as fairly straightforwardly claiming that dogs (their interpretation of “those who cannot climb trees”) have fur most bright, soft, clean, and grey. These attributes are “dog fur benefits”, and these interpreters then look at CI 3.27 and conclude that obviously cat fur does not have these benefits.

    The second school of thought interprets Trees 2:5 differently. They point out (for a variety of reasons that we need not go into here) that the passage actually refers to “all who don’t climb trees”, and this includes a certain kind of cat (that used to be a lot more popular in the village, back when the elders who wrote Trees were around, but this is one of those reasons I didn’t want to go into). There are non-tree-climbing cats, and of course dogs don’t climb trees. Trees 2:5 speaks of them all without distinction. Therefore, some cats possess fur that is most shiny, soft, clean, and grey, as do all dogs. These are “real benefits” of dog and cat fur. But the confession at 3.27 also says that only dogs possess the best kind of fur. From this the second school of thought draws the necessary and obvious conclusion: that dog fur has something even more magnificent to it than the list given in Trees 2:5. Yes, all dogs and certain cats possess together the same fur in the sense of its brightness, softness, cleanness, and greyness. But dogs also have an even better fur than the cats, in another sense. What might this sense of “better” be? Well, actually the feline inclusivists are divided on this issue. There are a number of ways they try to express the difference, but the majority opinion among them seems to be that dog fur is better than cat fur in the “manner” in which it is owned by the dogs. The “furry dog complex’ is better than the “furry cat complex”–even though both involve fur that is most bright, soft, clean, and grey–because the manner in which dogs embrace and live within their fur is different than the manner in which cats embrace and live with theirs. This is all given to them by the Great Pumpkin, of course, but.the felinists have to appeal to other holy texts and confessional statements in order to argue for this difference in ‘manner.’ At this point they are beyond Trees 2:5.

    Now, the first school objects to the second school by calling them heretics who have broken with the confessional standards of the village. The exclusivist caninists argue that the list in Trees 2:5 refers to “dog benefits”, and the felinists say that these benefits go to some cats, too. So this clearly puts feline inclusivism in violation of CI 3.27, which clearly says that only dogs have the best fur.

    But it is obvious, I hope, why this is a bad argument against felinism. For the very disagreement here is over how best to interpret the list in Trees 2:5. The felinists think it is a list of benefits that goes to dogs and some cats, but then are also careful to say that there are “further” benefits that go to the dogs (where this “benefit” is, as we just saw, usually defined in terms of the manner or way in which the dogs appropriate their fur into their lives as dogs). Thus, they are still consistent with CI 3.27, which says that only dogs have the best fur. Their interpretation of Trees 2:5 may be incorrect, but it is not incorrect in such a way as to make them fall outside the confession.

  198. Xon said,

    December 14, 2006 at 11:28 am

    “Indeed, if we follow Wilkins, there is no place in the New Testament at all that Westminster could conceivably index it’s conception of justification if you chop down all of the key proof-texts as he has done.

    But this isn’t so. I’m not sure why you limit your desire for Scriptural evidence to the NT, but there are plenty of places in the Scriptures, both OT and NT, which affirm 1. the total sovereignty of God over all things , and 2. the fact that not everyone inherits eternal life at the last day. From these two simple affirmations alone it is a simple deduction by “good and necessary consequence” that God sovereignly picks who goes to Heaven and who doesn’t. Even if Wilkins’ view does take away all your favorite proof texts, you don’t need them.

    “Indeed, if we keep following his hermeneutic, all the NT is talking about blessings given to all covenant members without exception (because, he reasons, it is ridiculous for us to believe that Paul speaks to his audience in an undifferentiated manner out of convention or charity rather than strict actuality).

  199. Xon said,

    December 14, 2006 at 11:32 am

    Ugh. Let’s try that again.

    “ndeed, if we follow Wilkins, there is no place in the New Testament at all that Westminster could conceivably index it’s conception of justification if you chop down all of the key proof-texts as he has done.

    But this isn’t so. I’m not sure why you limit your desire for Scriptural evidence to the NT, but there are plenty of places in the Scriptures, both OT and NT, which affirm 1. the total sovereignty of God over all things , and 2. the fact that not everyone inherits eternal life at the last day. From these two simple affirmations alone it is a simple deduction by “good and necessary consequence” that God sovereignly picks who goes to Heaven and who doesn’t. Even if Wilkins’ view does take away all your favorite proof texts, you don’t need them.

    “Indeed, if we keep following his hermeneutic, all the NT is talking about blessings given to all covenant members without exception (because, he reasons, it is ridiculous for us to believe that Paul speaks to his audience in an undifferentiated manner out of convention or charity rather than strict actuality).“

    I’m not sure about this, but say it’s so. So what? Again, you we not need NT ‘proof-texts’ to explicitly claim that God has elected some from the foundation of the world to be in union with Christ forever, and that obviously this brings with it a form of ‘eternal security’ for such a person. These are just deductions from God’s sovereignty (which some have argued is itself just a deduction from creation ex nihilo) and from the fact that everybody does not in fact end up in the same place at the resurrection.

  200. December 14, 2006 at 11:44 am

    Todd,

    Once again, I answered your questions back in #176.

    Concerning your question 2 I wrote “If Paul had wanted to indicate water baptism in those verses, then there could have been contextual clues, such as those present in I Corinthians 1. Notice also that whenever the “spiritual” reality of baptism is in view, Paul talks in the passive voice “was/were baptized”, and when the ritual is in view he uses the active “I/he baptized you/him.””

    And concerning question 1,I believe that Calvin, as I explained, holds to the “sacramental language”, in essence, of WCF (while not adopting Beisner’s interpretation precisely).

  201. December 14, 2006 at 11:47 am

    Xon,

    “”both OT and NT, which affirm 1. the total sovereignty of God over all things , and 2. the fact that not everyone inherits eternal life at the last day. From these two simple affirmations alone it is a simple deduction by “good and necessary consequence” that God sovereignly picks who goes to Heaven and who doesn’t.”

    That still doesn’t get you to Calvinism. At best, that just gets you the U and P of TULIP, and the ordo salutis is still absent if this is as far as you go. Where is justification, imputation, and forgiveness of sins (peculiar to the elect)?

  202. Xon said,

    December 14, 2006 at 11:48 am

    “Obviously, my nomenclature here is [more] narrow than your usage of that term.

    Yes, I’d say that is the source of our disagreement generally.

  203. Xon said,

    December 14, 2006 at 11:55 am

    David,

    “Where is justification, imputation, and forgiveness of sins (peculiar to the elect)?

    It is, at the very least, in those passages of the NT which speak of justification, imputation, and forgiveness of sins, when combined with the two other facts already mentioned. Since we know that God justifies His people, imputes Christ’s righteousness to them, and forgives their sins, but we also know that the eternally-elect receive these things in a way that is over and above the way that the non-eternally-elect receive them (since, afterall, at the last day the non-elect turn out not to be righteous, not to have Christ’s righteousness imputed to them, and not to have their sins forgiven), then God must be sovereign over this distinction.

    Nobody is taking away NT (or OT) passages that speak of forensic justification, imputation, or forgiveness of sins. What is being questioned is the passages that are commonly used to ‘show’ that only the finally elect get these things in any sense, or that the elect get them in a way that is superior to the way the non-elect get them. It is this sort of proof-text that you don’t need. (though there may be some, I’m juss sayin….)

  204. December 14, 2006 at 12:27 pm

    “Since we know that God justifies His people, imputes Christ’s righteousness to them, and forgives their sins, but we also know that the eternally-elect receive these things in a way that is over and above the way that the non-eternally-elect receive them ”

    And what way (other than the being permanent) is that? You see, speaking in the abstract of distinctions “in some sense” can’t sew up the patchwork of a systematic theology Wilkins has put together. These texts don’t provide dual definitions of these terms that your hypothesis requires. They aren’t there. Especially in places like Romans 8, Ephesians 1, etc.

    And you seem to ignore the fact that these passages speak of the gift of perseverence and glorification as well. This is an insuperable difficulty.

  205. Xon said,

    December 14, 2006 at 1:34 pm

    Me:

    ““Since we know that God justifies His people, imputes Christ’s righteousness to them, and forgives their sins, but we also know that the eternally-elect receive these things in a way that is over and above the way that the non-eternally-elect receive them ”

    David G:

    “And what way (other than the being permanent) is that? You see, speaking in the abstract of distinctions “in some sense” can’t sew up the patchwork of a systematic theology Wilkins has put together. These texts don’t provide dual definitions of these terms that your hypothesis requires. They aren’t there. Especially in places like Romans 8, Ephesians 1, etc.”

    As for the third sentence, that “these texts don’t provide dual definitions of these terms that [my] hypothesis requires,” you are right, they don’t. This is part of the point of the parable I presented earlier. Read the paragraph explaining the second school of thought in the village and compare. Wilkins’ view is that Ephesians 1 et al are speaking of benefits belonging to all who are in covenant with God, finally elect and finally reprobate alike. If this is how we undertsand this passage, then obviously the “dual” part of the definition of these benefits is not going to be found in this same passage. If there is another sense to these benefits, a sense that only goes to the finally elect, we’ll have to look other places to find it. To other Scriptures, perhaps, or to sound theological reflection on the Scriptures. The point is that FVers do think they find it elsewhere (see my own comments here today about why we don’t really need “proof-texts” to establish these differences), and in any case this view is consistent with what Westminster requires, since the FV view affirms that only the finally elect get the benefits in the way that pertains to everlasting salvation.

    As to “what way” the finally elect can have these benefits (even justification, forgiveness of sins, etc.), I’m tired of saying it my way. Let’s let Wilkins answer this question for himself this time. From his written answers to the questions posed to him before his examination by the Louisiana Presbytery this past Saturday. Notice how similar some of the things he says are to things that I have said about ontology, etc. Anyway, here it is:

    “This is not an easy question to answer but it does seem to me that the benefits enjoyed by the “decretively elect” do differ from those received by the non-elect. First, they differ qualitatively. Thus, for example, though the non-elect are brought within the family of the justified and in that sense may be referred to as one of the justified, the elect person’s justification in time is not only a declaration of his present acquittal from the guilt of sin but also an anticipation of his final vindication at the last judgment. The non-elect church member’s “justification” is not. His “justification” is not the judgment he will receive from God at the last day. Second, the blessings conferred differ in their duration. The elect person perseveres and remains in a state of grace until the end of his life. The non-elect believer eventually forsakes the faith and falls away from the state of grace. There may also be other experiential differences between the elect and the non-elect, but these differences may not be discernible (to the individuals themselves or to others) until the non-elect person displays his unbelief in some very explicit and concrete ways.

    God certainly knows (and has decreed) the difference between the elect and the non-elect, but from our creaturely, covenantal point of view there is often no perceptible difference (e.g., Saul and David were indistinguishable from one another to all outward appearances in the early phases of their careers; Judas looked like the other disciples for a time). It is only as history goes forward, as God’s plan unfolds, that we come to know who will persevere and who won’t. In the meanwhile, we are to view and treat all faithful members of the covenant community in the way we see them treated throughout the New Testament epistles — i.e., all covenant members are viewed and treated as elect, but also warned of the dangers of apostasy.

    The language of the Bible forces us to acknowledge a great deal of mystery here. For example, the same terminology that describes the Spirit coming upon Saul in 1 Sam. 10:6 is used when the Spirit comes upon David (1 Sam. 16:13), Gideon (Jdg. 6:34), Jephthah (Jdg. 11:29), and Samson (Jdg. 14:6, 9; 15:14). But in four of these five cases (David, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson), the man in question was clearly regenerated and saved by the Spirit’s work (cf. Heb. 11:32). This means that at the outset of Saul’s career, the biblical narrative itself draws no distinction between his initial experience of the Spirit and the experience of those who would obtain final salvation. Saul appears to receive the same initial covenantal grace that David, Gideon, and other saved men received, even though God did not enable him to persevere in that grace. While God no doubt predestined Saul’s apostasy (since he foreordains all that comes to pass), God was not the Author of Saul’s apostasy (cf. WCF 3.1). His failure to persevere was due to his own rebellion. Herein lies the great mystery of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility (cf. WCF 3.1, 8).

    I agree with how this point is addressed in the AAPC “Summary Statement”:

    “Once baptized, an individual may be truly called a ‘Christian’ because he is a member of the household of faith and the body of Christ (I Cor. 12). However, not all who are ‘Christians’ in this sense will persevere to the end. Some will ‘fall from grace’ and be lost (Gal. 5:4; 1 Cor. 10:1-5). Though the difference between those who are predestined to eternal life and those who ‘believe for a while’ is not merely one of duration (i.e., God works ‘effectually’ in those whom He has predestined to eternal life so that they do not fall away in unbelief), the Bible does not explain the distinction between the nature of the work of the Spirit in the reprobate and the nature of His work in the elect, and even uses the same language for both.”

    This reality is reflected in the covenant relationship of marriage. Though men may be equally married in the eyes of the law, they may have quite different marriages in terms of the quality of their relationships with their wives. The presence or absence of biblical love makes a huge difference in the quality of the marital bond, though it does not affect their legal status as married men. So it is in the Church. Some members of the Church are “effectually” (savingly) joined in union with Christ by faith while others are not.

    In addressing the issue of the qualitative difference between the communion the elect have with God as contrasted with that of the non-elect, I fully agree with Peter Leithart’s statement explaining this distinction:

    “First, God has decreed the eternal destiny of elect and reprobate. That cannot help but color God’s attitude toward someone who is ultimately reprobate. He is obviously conscious that any blessing He gives or favor He shows is blessing and favor to a reprobate.

    Second, while God decrees before the foundation of the world all that comes to pass, He also is active in the outworking of those decrees, and in that activity He is interactive with His creation. We pray, and He answers, and that is not pretense; He really does answer prayers (albeit He had planned from eternity for the prayer and the answer). Similarly, His attitude toward sinners changes through time. An elect man is an object of God’s wrath during the week before his conversion, and the object of God’s mercy during the time after. I submit that the same is true of the reprobate who receives the word of God with joy for a time: He is an object of favor while he responds in faith, and then becomes an object of disfavor. I take Saul as a concrete example of this reality. Again, this is qualified and complexified by point #1.

    Third, I am favorable toward a teleological view of human nature. If you slice into the life of an elect man at a point of backsliding, and also slice into the life of the reprobate at a point when he is rejoicing in the gospel, it will appear that the reprobate’s faith is strong, more living, more true, than that of the elect. Analyzed in that kind of punctiliar fashion, the two are well-nigh indistinguishable. But nature is determined by ends. We are what we are destined to become (which is what we are decreed to become). Thus, the quality of temporary faith, even the nature of temporary faith, is different from the nature of true and living and persevering faith. I’ve used the analogy of marriage to explain this: A marriage that ends in divorce differs from a happy marriage in its conclusion; but the conclusion of the marriages reveals that there was something fundamentally and permanently different in the two marriages. The differences are never merely differences at the end, because the end reveals the shape of the whole story-line.

    How have they had communion with the Spirit? I am thinking of Hebrews 6 primarily there: they “have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit” (v. 4). That might manifest itself in acts of ministry that are empowered by the Spirit. It may manifest itself in acts of piety, devotion to and joy in worship, eagerness to hear the word of God. I believe that this all falls under what the WCF calls “common operations of the Spirit,” taking “common” here as operations common to the elect and reprobate.”

  206. Todd said,

    December 14, 2006 at 2:53 pm

    “And concerning question 1,I believe that Calvin, as I explained, holds to the “sacramental language”, in essence, of WCF (while not adopting Beisner’s interpretation precisely).”

    This doesn’t answer my question. How far back can we find a commentator who believes that Romans 6 isn’t about water baptism? If it’s a recent innovation in the history of exegesis, we ought to be very, very cautious.

    Calvin doesn’t adopt Beisner’s interpretation at all.

  207. Todd said,

    December 14, 2006 at 3:54 pm

    “Notice also that whenever the “spiritual” reality of baptism is in view, Paul talks in the passive voice “was/were baptized”, and when the ritual is in view he uses the active “I/he baptized you/him.””

    This claim begs the question quite a bit. All you can really say at this point is, “Hey, look. All the passages where Beisner and I see a reference to the thing signified and not to the sign itself are passive in form, while all the passages, well, the one passage where I think Paul is actually talking about water is active in form.” Observing this doesn’t prove your view. You’ve assumed your conclusion explicitly.

    Even then, though, it doesn’t work. 1 Corinthians 1:13: “Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” Baptism here is both passive and wet.

    You spoke about contextual clues. I suspect that for the original readers, who hadn’t read the WCF on sacramental union, to think of something other than water baptism when they read Romans 6 and Galatians 3, there would have to be many, many more contextual clues than there are. I’m still eager to learn who is the earliest commentator who denies a reference to the rite in Romans 6. Any leads? I suspect Beisner’s view is quite a minority, taking church history as a whole. But, as I’ve said before, I am very, very open to learning differently. I’m not as open to taking your word, or Beisner’s word, for it.

  208. Todd said,

    December 14, 2006 at 4:11 pm

    Check out also all the “passive baptisms” in the gospels and Acts:

    http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/search/?q=%22were+baptized%22

    http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/search/?q=%22was+baptized%22

    Your “rule” just doesn’t work, man.

  209. pduggie said,

    December 14, 2006 at 8:38 pm

    maybe justification is an external legal justification based on legal union for those who don’t have the internal real union with Christ, and an internal, real justification for those with real union with Christ. That would be one way of makeing the distinction that fits with typical distiction language in theology

    anyone satusfied with that?

  210. Todd said,

    December 14, 2006 at 9:57 pm

    New Heart

    David said: “the Bible doesn’t speak of covenant members as having “new hearts.” That is language the belongs to regeneration – a benefit given only to the elect.”

    David, you provided no biblical evidence for this statement. You merely asserted.

    I provided a possible counter example, with a nice, humble question mark.

    “1 Samuel 10:9?”

    And here’s your response:

    “This is a plain demonstration of your desperation in trying to defend that which is intellectually and Scripturally indefensible. Why on earth do you insist on these gymnastics to force these square views to fit into a round hole? This proves that you will throw up just about anything into the air in order to defend FV.”

    This, of course, was nothing more than a rant. It wasn’t an answer. Some might see it as “telling” that you resort so often to this kind of language. Seriously, David, it’s time to grow up. Some humility would look good on you.

    Your original claim, again, was this: “the Bible doesn’t speak of covenant members as having “new hearts.” That is language the belongs to regeneration – a benefit given only to the elect.”

    You didn’t like my verse, but do you have any? What passages would you point me to in order to prove your claim? Just whom does the Bible describe as having new hearts? Where does the Bible use this precise language? Who is being described?

    “Anyway, this still brings us back to the fact that there is zero exegesis to back up applying a “new heart” to the non-elect.”

    But where is the exegesis to back up your claim that a new heart is a benefit only for the elect?

    “Because simply pointing out that God changes someone’s heart to do X action or choice is not the same thing as God changing the heart fundamentally to be disposed to love God and accept his grace. There are common operations of the Spirit, as everyone agrees.”

    Absolutely right. But your original claim was about a very specific phrase: “new heart.” Where in Scripture is this specific language used? Is it used in the Bible to refer to “God changing the heart fundamentally to be disposed to love God and accept his grace”? Show us!

  211. December 15, 2006 at 1:47 am

    “maybe justification is an external legal justification based on legal union for those who don’t have the internal real union with Christ, and an internal, real justification for those with real union with Christ. That would be one way of makeing the distinction that fits with typical distiction language in theology

    anyone satusfied with that?”

    No one should be satisfied with such sophistic intellectual gymnastics.

    What is the substance of distinguishing an “external/legal” justification and a “real/internal” justification? Where is such a distinction found in Scripture? How can one be “internally” declared righteous before God (based on the imputation of Christ’s work and merits)?

  212. December 15, 2006 at 2:38 am

    Todd said:

    “This doesn’t answer my question. How far back can we find a commentator who believes that Romans 6 isn’t about water baptism? If it’s a recent innovation in the history of exegesis, we ought to be very, very cautious.”

    The whole point of my discussion was that your question is not legitimate. Even Lane admitted that this discussion is “about” water baptism in some sense. You have oversimplified the interpretive positions here. “About” is an ambiguous term in this context.

    And Beisner never denied that water baptism was in view AT ALL – only that the term did not “denote” water baptism (as a “primary meaning”).

    So for Lane, Calvin, and me, the passage is about both the “thing” and “the thing signified”, although foremost in view is “the thing signified.” (per Calvin, “in connection with the truth they represent”) when the metaphysical relation to salvation is considered.

    FV says it is talking about the sign. Indeed, the “thing signified” may or may not be present (since those in the covenant may not be elect and have true faith).

    “Observing this doesn’t prove your view. You’ve assumed your conclusion explicitly.”

    It doesn’t strictly “prove” the view, but it is consistent with my view. And even the exception you mention, which uses the passive, the context makes it clear by itself that the ritual is in view (“in the name of Paul”). It is an exegetical clue.

    “I suspect that for the original readers, who hadn’t read the WCF on sacramental union, to think of something other than water baptism when they read Romans 6 and Galatians 3, there would have to be many, many more contextual clues than there are.”

    But this burden of proof already assumes that the primary and fundamental (“default”) meaning of “baptism” was the rite to the 1st century Roman. Assuming “default” meanings, instead of letting the context drive the interpretation first, is dangerous.

    But if we don’t impose any burden of proof in the matter (either way), what do the contexts of Romans 6 and Galatians 3 tell us? Galatians 3 contrasts works of the Spirit and works of men, and Romans 6 speaks of baptism “into death” and “into Christ” – not exactly literalistic imagery here that concerns water.

    And, on the systematic side, Romans 4 is the backdrop to Romans 6, in which we learn that circumcision was the sign/seal of the justification Abraham already had by faith. So he was “the friend of God” before the sacrament. So it must be with baptism.

    And (this is the 4th time I’ve pointed this out) you still cannot answer the fact that the FV exegesis, by good and necessary consequence, entails a heretical ex opere operato sacramentology. You can’t just play coy here.

    “You didn’t like my verse, but do you have any? What passages would you point me to in order to prove your claim? Just whom does the Bible describe as having new hearts? Where does the Bible use this precise language? Who is being described?”

    Pardon me, but I was assuming that the people in this discussion had some rudimentary knowledge of basic Reformed systematic theology and our confessions. This is hardly obscure:

    “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

    Ezekiel 36:26

    Indeed, Reformed commentators have noted that this is probably the backdrop of Jesus’ exposition of regeneration in John 3 (born of water = sprinkling in water in vs. 25), being born again. Notice especially the effects of this “new heart/new spirit” in Ezekiel 36.

    “Absolutely right. But your original claim was about a very specific phrase: “new heart.””

    But a “change of heart”, even in common speech, is not equivalent to being given a “new heart.”

  213. December 15, 2006 at 3:56 am

    “To other Scriptures, perhaps, or to sound theological reflection on the Scriptures. The point is that FVers do think they find it elsewhere (see my own comments here today about why we don’t really need “proof-texts” to establish these differences), and in any case this view is consistent with what Westminster requires, since the FV view affirms that only the finally elect get the benefits in the way that pertains to everlasting salvation.”

    If there are differences, then where does Scripture EVER talk about, say a justification peculiar to the elect? You have said, basically, that the FV believe that “by good and necessary consequence” of other passages in Scripture that a distinction is justified. But, even if true, that still doesn’t provide a Scripture passage to index the CONTENT of that distinction (the separate definitions of each sense of the term). All they can say is “there is a distinction, and one is temporary while the other pertains to everlasting salvation.”

    “It is only as history goes forward, as God’s plan unfolds, that we come to know who will persevere and who won’t.”

    In these two paragraphs, Wilkins misses the point entirely, and switches from ontology (the nature of blessings given) to epistemology (how we can tell, in individuals, the presence of ontological grace). This is incompetence.

    “This means that at the outset of Saul’s career, the biblical narrative itself draws no distinction between his initial experience of the Spirit and the experience of those who would obtain final salvation. Saul appears to receive the same initial covenantal grace that David, Gideon, and other saved men received, even though God did not enable him to persevere in that grace. While God no doubt predestined Saul’s apostasy (since he foreordains all that comes to pass), God was not the Author of Saul’s apostasy (cf. WCF 3.1). His failure to persevere was due to his own rebellion.”

    More incompetence. Just because the biblical narrative, in this case, makes no distinction, does not mean one is not warranted (because of our systematic theology). He then switches back, again, to the issue of epistemology (“appears to receive…”), and then refuses to credit the distinction between David and Saul to the fact that David had a regenerate heart (ontology), and credits the difference, instead, to Saul’s rebellion. But that doesn’t answer the obvious question – why did Saul rebel? Is it because he had the same grace as David or not? Notice how he so carefully dances around this.

    “An elect man is an object of God’s wrath during the week before his conversion, and the object of God’s mercy during the time after. I submit that the same is true of the reprobate who receives the word of God with joy for a time: He is an object of favor while he responds in faith, and then becomes an object of disfavor.”

    This is a key clue to understanding that Wilkins really DOESN’T distinguish between graces given to the elect except in terms of duration. Here he speaks of “favor” in the same way as the favor given to the converted (elect).

    “the Bible does not explain the distinction between the nature of the work of the Spirit in the reprobate and the nature of His work in the elect, and even uses the same language for both.”

    (Concerning the first part of the sentence) the confessions seem to disagree, do they not? It distinguishes, in more than chronological terms, what belongs to the elect and what doesn’t.

    “That cannot help but color God’s attitude toward someone who is ultimately reprobate. He is obviously conscious that any blessing He gives or favor He shows is blessing and favor to a reprobate.”

    All well and good but, once again, this misses the specifics. Can this statement justify imputing “forgiveness of sins” to the reprobate?

  214. December 15, 2006 at 4:00 am

    Sorry, I meant to insert this after the 2nd paragraph:

    And there is still the problem of trying to use these terms in two senses when considering how the confessions use these terms.

    If WCF says A, B, and C scriptural concepts belong only to the elect. WCF indexes the definition of these concepts/terms to specific scriptural definitions/expositions X, Y, and Z. FV says that while A, B, and C exist, there is also A’, B’, and C’ that applies to the elect AND non-elect cov. members. But then it indexes the definitions of A’, B’, and C’ to the definitions provided by the content of passages X, Y, and Z. So the problem is not merely that FV tries to affirm both A, B, and C along with A’, B’, and C’. The problem is that if WCF is right, then, by implication, X, Y and Z belong only to the elect since terms A, B, and C belong only to the elect. There is no wiggle room for FV to try and posit an X’, Y’, and Z’ (ad hoc) to avoid contradiction with WCF.

    And you continue to ignore the fact that passages like Romans 8, Ephesians 1, and I Corinthians include the gift of perseverance. This is, I think, about the 3rd or 4th time I’ve mentioned this.

  215. Todd said,

    December 15, 2006 at 7:44 am

    “The whole point of my discussion was that your question is not legitimate. Even Lane admitted that this discussion is “about” water baptism in some sense. You have oversimplified the interpretive positions here.”

    But here’s what you said earlier: “Paul’s statement would, indeed, entail by good and necessary consequence that “all who are baptized in water will be eternally saved, IF it was the case that Paul always defines “baptism” in his writing as the FV do (as always referring, at least implicitly, to water baptism).”

    So is an implicit reference to the rite okay now? Or does is still lead to heresy? Don’t play coy, man.

    “And even the exception you mention, which uses the passive, the context makes it clear by itself that the ritual is in view (”in the name of Paul”). It is an exegetical clue.”

    But the active/passive distinction was a rule you simply made up. It was an interesting attempt, but a failed one. How could you talk to someone about their water baptism *without* using the passive voice?

    “Galatians 3 contrasts works of the Spirit and works of men.”

    Right. And on which side of this divide does water baptism fall? Is it a work of man or a work of God?

    “Romans 6 speaks of baptism “into death” and “into Christ” – not exactly literalistic imagery here that concerns water.”

    But what about Matthew 28? “Into the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit?” Not exactly literalistic imagery here that concerns water. Do you deny that there’s a primary reference to water baptism there? Consistency, etc.

    “Ezekiel 36:26″

    Right. Now work with me. In Ezekieal 36, precisely who is said to receive a new heart? Elect individuals? Or the whole house of Israel? Remember your claim about new heart language in Scripture: “The Bible doesn’t speak of covenant members as having “new hearts.” That is language the belongs to regeneration – a benefit given only to the elect.” Does Ez 36 really help your here?

  216. Xon said,

    December 15, 2006 at 8:04 am

    “And you continue to ignore the fact that passages like Romans 8, Ephesians 1, and I Corinthians include the gift of perseverance. This is, I think, about the 3rd or 4th time I’ve mentioned this.

    Yeah, it’s just too superb of an argument. We are ignoring it because there’s nothing we can say. Our theology is a train wreck, after all, and you have bravely exposed it here time and time again. (My sarcasm.)

    Or, we keep ignoring this argument of yours because it is such a poor argument it is not worthy of a response. The very fact you keep throwing this “gift of perseverence” talk out there just shows how desparately you are reaching for straws at this point, willing to say anything in order to justify the five-year witch hunt. How embarrassing it would be for all the heresy hunters to have to publically back down and admit that they have been too quick to speak and slow to listen, that they have judged their brothers in the faith uncharitably. No, I think they will never do this, sadly–you will continue to fight against these men no matter what they say or do to try to satisfy you, including making silly arguments like this one. (My imitation of your sarcasm.)

    Or, putting both of our sarcasm’s aside, maybe it’s just that the actual human beings you are talking to are trying their best to get to everything in a compelling and persuasive way, and this doesn’t allow for going point-by-point through every thing you say. Maybe we think we’ve answered this “gift of perseverence” argument in other things we’ve already said, if anyone cares to see it. Maybe we can interpret each other a little more charitably.

    “NO, I don’t give you charity, because you are HERETICS!” (Which Lane, at least, has all but said in this discussion.)

    Great.

  217. Xon said,

    December 15, 2006 at 10:24 am

    Me:

    ““To other Scriptures, perhaps, or to sound theological reflection on the Scriptures. The point is that FVers do think they find it elsewhere (see my own comments here today about why we don’t really need “proof-texts” to establish these differences), and in any case this view is consistent with what Westminster requires, since the FV view affirms that only the finally elect get the benefits in the way that pertains to everlasting salvation.”

    David G:

    “If there are differences, then where does Scripture EVER talk about, say a justification peculiar to the elect?

    Why does it need to? It can be deduced from other things Scripture says. (Note, please, that I think there are explicit Scriptures we could point to (and Wilkins alluded to some himself in his Presbytery answers), but the conversation will stay more focused I think if we act like I don’t.)

    “You have said, basically, that the FV believe that “by good and necessary consequence” of other passages in Scripture that a distinction is justified. But, even if true, that still doesn’t provide a Scripture passage to index the CONTENT of that distinction (the separate definitions of each sense of the term). All they can say is “there is a distinction, and one is temporary while the other pertains to everlasting salvation.”

    So what if it doesn’t? Is it your position that if Scripture teaches (either explicitly or by “good and nec consequence”) a distinction, then it also must give us the ‘content’ of the distinction? Is this a requirement you are placing on the Holy Spirit? Maybe God wants to leave us in the dark on this. Your approach here is too rationalistic for my blood.

    Now, I grant that X and Y cannot contradict one another, so if you could show a logical incompatibility between them then anybody who thought Scripture taught both would be in trouble. If Y actually amounts to “not X”, then there would be a contradiction in the FV interpretation and that would be a problem. (Though not necessarily a defrockable one; people are inconsistent all the time: ‘discursive reasoning’ may be one of the things that sets us apart from the animals, but we still suck at it a lot of the time.) But, so long as you cannot demonstrate such a contradiction in the FV view, and you haven’t, my view is that you should consider laying off. You demand some sort of POSITIVE biblical proof, not just FOR a distinction between the benefits received by elect and non-elect covenant members, but DEFINING the “content” of the distinction. This is an unreasonable demand, as I have said before.

    When I said this before, you argued that my analogy didn’t work because even in the case of other Christian mysteries such as the Trinity or the compatibility of human responsibility and divine determinism we still are able to “apprehend” the content of the distinction, even though we do not “comprehend” it. We say that God is one in one sense and many in another, but we can also specify somewhat the sense in which He is each. We generally attribute the sense of oneness to God’s “essence”, and attribute threeness to His “persons”. We don’t get how this works at all, it is deeply mysterious to us, but still we are at least able to ‘apprehend’ the content of the distinction, because we are able to specify (though the words we use here are themselves shrouded in a lot of mystery) the sense in which God is one and the sense in which He is many. We can say “one in essence, three in person”, and this at least does give us the ‘content’ of a distinction.

    Okay. But if this is all you are requiring of FVers, then they have already provided what you want. As Wilkins’ answers to his Presbytery’s questions make clear (and Wilkins follows Leithart in a lot of this), there are several ways in which he DOES supply ‘content’ to the distinction between the benefits received by elect covenant members and the benefits received by non-elect covenant members. Of course, you accuse Wilkins of theological “incompetence” on the basis of these answers. But we should be careful of overblown rhetoric in these discussions, because it often becomes ironic. For instance, you make an incredible gaffe in your interaction with Wilkins’ answers. Here’s the exchange:

    Me, quoting Wilkins:

    ““An elect man is an object of God’s wrath during the week before his conversion, and the object of God’s mercy during the time after. I submit that the same is true of the reprobate who receives the word of God with joy for a time: He is an object of favor while he responds in faith, and then becomes an object of disfavor.”

    David G’s response:

    “This is a key clue to understanding that Wilkins really DOESN’T distinguish between graces given to the elect except in terms of duration. Here he speaks of “favor” in the same way as the favor given to the converted (elect).

    But, Wilkins (actually this particular passage is Leithart) DOESN’T speak “in the same way” of the “favor” given to the elect and the non-elect within the covenant. Read that parargaph again. They are not the same. One has temporary wrath, but eternal favor. The other has temporary favor, but eternal wrath. Granted, these are “durational” terms (temporary/eternal), but this paragraph isn’t the only thing Wilkins/Leithart wrote.

    Let’s follow your argument, David. Wilkins, in his answers, lists SEVERAL ways in which the blessings received by elect cov members can be distinguished from those received by non-elect cov members. He lists both a difference in duration and a difference in quality. But you say that he doesn’t REALLY distinguish between them qualitatively. He may say he does, but he doesn’t. Why do you say this? What is your basis for claiming what Wilkins ‘really’ believes? You quote a passage in which he speaks of a difference in duration! So, to make this extra clear to those playing along at home, because Wilkins says “A” in one passage, A is all he really believes. This is the only way to construe your argument here. You are isolating passages, accusing Wilkins of “dancing around” things that he answers directly in passages you don’t quote, and then accusing him of not believing something simply because he didn’t mention it in the passage you chose to isolate. (!!!!) Logically, this is madness.

    Gary Coleman: I believe in God, and I believe in Satan.

    Emmanuel Lewis: Let me quote something Gary Coleman has said: “I believe in Satan.” This is one of the keys that shows us that Gary Coleman does not actually believe in God. He only believes in Satan! QED.

    In fact, when Wilkins starts quoting this portion from Leithart, he says it is to address “the issue of the qualitative difference between the communion the elect have with God as contrasted with that of the non-elect.” (Look at # 205 above for the quote) It is precisely the “qualitative” (ontlogical) difference between elect and non-elect that they are discussing here. You then try to use this quote to argue that they aren’t REALLY distinguishing qualitatively at all. You are clearly missing something, and failing to truly engage what Wilkins and Leithart are saying.

    My guess is that you still aren’t quite grasping the way in which for FVers ontlogy is determined by relationality. Here’s two portions of the Leithart quotation (which you chose not to talk about in your response, thus supporting my suspicion that you still aren’t quite doing justice to this aspect of FV thinking):

    ““First, God has decreed the eternal destiny of elect and reprobate. That cannot help but color God’s attitude toward someone who is ultimately reprobate. He is obviously conscious that any blessing He gives or favor He shows is blessing and favor to a reprobate.
    ….
    Third, I am favorable toward a teleological view of human nature. If you slice into the life of an elect man at a point of backsliding, and also slice into the life of the reprobate at a point when he is rejoicing in the gospel, it will appear that the reprobate’s faith is strong, more living, more true, than that of the elect. Analyzed in that kind of punctiliar fashion, the two are well-nigh indistinguishable. But nature is determined by ends. We are what we are destined to become (which is what we are decreed to become). Thus, the quality of temporary faith, even the nature of temporary faith, is different from the nature of true and living and persevering faith. I’ve used the analogy of marriage to explain this: A marriage that ends in divorce differs from a happy marriage in its conclusion; but the conclusion of the marriages reveals that there was something fundamentally and permanently different in the two marriages. The differences are never merely differences at the end, because the end reveals the shape of the whole story-line.”

    A difference in duration of one’s relationship to God is an ontological difference. It’s not merely that a relational difference reveals an ontological difference–it’s that the relational difference itself constitutes an ontological one. So, first of all, there is a difference in duration. But, second of all there is a difference in quality (in ontology) between elect blessings and non-elect blessing within the covenant. What is the nature of the qualitative distinction? Well, for one thing, the difference in duration! (But they say more than this, too.)

    You may disagree with the theological/philosophical view of ontology that Wilkins/Leithart are advocating here, but you cannot accuse them of holding to a distinction “merely” of duration, because for them the duration of our relationship to God is never “mere.” It is itself a part of what makes us the kind of thing that we are. As Leithart says about teleology, we are (ontology) what we are destined to become (teleology).

    Now, of course this brings us back to the question of “specifics”. You don’t fault them, despite this criticism you just offered, for denying any ontological distinction, but for denying that Ephesians 1 et al define that ontological distinction. But defocking these men over this would be foolish (more on this below).

    You err again when you charge Wilkins with “switching” from ontology to epistemology. You say he “misses the point entirely.” But you appear to have missed that he has already affirmed an “ontological” difference. This ontological difference serves as the background for what he says here about “epistemological” problems of making the distinction. In his answer, Wilkins (sometimes quoting Leithart) specifies certain ways in which they are different. But he also (please note the word “also”) argues that Scripture often presents elect and non-elect people as receiving the same benefits, in some sense. In fact, there are places where the Scriptures treat the two groups so similarly that the only way we can tell them apart is by their fruit, chronologically. We have an epistemological problem because of how similar the elect and non-elect are, to our eyes. But Wilkins affrims a difference, as well. It’s the difference, in fact, which creates the epistemological ‘problem': the difference is there, but we can’t usually see it. This goes back to what I said at the beginning of this comment about how rationalistic your criticism of FV is. We have an epistemological problem, a problem with knowing and understanding exactly how the elect and the non-elect differ from one another, because apparently God wants us to have this problem. God has not chosen to reveal this difference to us.

    In any case, Wilkins is not “switching” between ontology and epistemology at all, but rather is grounding his discussion of epistemological issues in things he has already said about ontology. Your selective “fisking” of Wilkins seems to be the problem here, not Wilkins’ answer.

    Now, you can argue that the “TR” interpretation of Ephesians 1 et al is correct, and so God has in fact revealed certain things to us about the elect and the non-elect and what makes them different (although much of the epistemological problem for a pastor knowing who was who would still remain, of course). This is a simple disagreement over how to interpret the passages in question. But, given that FVers do interpret them differently than you do, you cannot then use these passages to argue that the FVers assign “blessings that only go to the eternally elect” to the non-elect. Since they don’t think Ephesians 1 et al are talking about those kinds of blessings that only go to the eternally elect, then this isn’t a valid criticism. But they do distinguish between blessings received by the elect and the non-elect. And Wilkins even takes great pains to discuss those differences (and they are not “merely” durational!) in his answer. But, unfortunately, this is not good enough for you, David. You want him to interpret Ephesians 1 as you do, and to locate the differences between elect and non-elect as you do. You claim that Westminster requires your way of locating the difference, but Westminster’s proof-texts are non-binding. Of course our interpretations of Scripture and our systematic theology cannot be rigidly separated, and they clearly influence one another, but this does not mean that every interpretive dispute about a Scriptural passage amounts to a difference of theology and thus a difference with Westminster. Wilkins affirms, with you and with Westminster, that the elect members of the covenant receive benefits that they non-elect do not receive. He just disagrees with you that the difference between the benefits is defined in Ephesians 1. For this you would have him defrocked.

    The only hope for your anti-Wilkins argument here, it seems to me, is to say that Westminster itself, even though it does not require an official appeal to Ephesians 1 et al, still insists on placing certain benefits with the finally elect only, and that FVers fail to give these particular benefits to the elect only. But again, Wilkins discusses this carefully in his answer. Westminster describes an “effectual calling” and a “justification” and so forth that only goes to the elect. But Westminster also defines “elect” as those who God has ordained to be finally saved. As long as those are the people we are talking about by the term “elect”, the FVers can affirm this right along with Westminster.

    He affirms everything Westminster says about “the elect”, when elect is understood in the Westminsterian sense of elect-to-final-salvation. But he also thinks the word “elect” can be used in different ways, to talk about people who are in covenant with God who may not be elected unto eternal life. He thinks that these people have lots of super-awesome benefits that go to them (such as the benefits that are mentioned in Ephesians 1 et al, contrary to what is admittedly the more popular Reformed interpretation of those passages), but in the end they lose faith (by God’s decree) and these blessings become curses. This says more than Westminster, but does not contradict it.

  218. Xon said,

    December 15, 2006 at 10:31 am

    Sorry for the runaway italics there…

  219. December 15, 2006 at 1:42 pm

    Todd,

    “So is an implicit reference to the rite okay now? Or does is still lead to heresy? Don’t play coy, man.”

    No, an implicit reference, in this sense, to the rite is not OK. If the implicit reference means that you can impute all of the effects of the “thing signified” to the sign. Again, I was talking about metaphysics and logical deduction here.

    But that does not mean that it is illegitimate to refer to the rite in any sense (again, considering the sacramental union).

    Again, I point out that you still haven’t absolved yourself of the heresy of Romanist baptismal regeneration and/or ex opere operato errors that follow from your exegesis.

    “Right. And on which side of this divide does water baptism fall? Is it a work of man or a work of God? ”

    In the context of Galatians 3, it is a work of man, just as circumcision was.

    “But what about Matthew 28? “Into the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit?” Not exactly literalistic imagery here that concerns water. Do you deny that there’s a primary reference to water baptism there? Consistency, etc.”

    But “baptizing in the name” is the more literalistic side of the coin, since that is exactly what we do during the rite of baptism – we baptize them IN THE NAME of Christ, not INTO Christ (the wording of Romans 6).

    “Right. Now work with me. In Ezekieal 36, precisely who is said to receive a new heart? Elect individuals? Or the whole house of Israel? Remember your claim about new heart language in Scripture: “The Bible doesn’t speak of covenant members as having “new hearts.” That is language the belongs to regeneration – a benefit given only to the elect.” Does Ez 36 really help your here?”

    WCF seems to think it does:

    “All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and THOSE ONLY, he is pleased [to] … enlightening their minds, spiritually and savingly, to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh”

    Now why would the Confession see it this way? Very often in the OT things that are said about Israel apply only to Israel, insofar as Israel is united by a common spirit (good or bad) and mind. This does not mean that everyone in Israel, without exception, will actually forsake idols, walk in God’s statutes, and loathe themselves for their sins. No commentator would argue otherwise. So this “new heart/new flesh” language applies to those who are not the exception – those who do forsake idols, etc. etc. Not to everyone, merely by being in the covenant.

  220. Xon said,

    December 15, 2006 at 2:10 pm

    “Again, I point out that you still haven’t absolved yourself of the heresy of Romanist baptismal regeneration and/or ex opere operato errors that follow from your exegesis.

    David G., what IS, on your understanding, the doctrine of “Romanist baptismal regeneration?” Is it the view that every person who is ever baptised is…what? Brought to eternal life?

    Same question for “ex opere operato”. What does this doctrine mean, in your opinion? If you want to go ahead and run ahead of me a bit by referencing where Wilkins (or any other FV person) is on record as teaching the doctrine, as you define it, then go ahead and provide those.

  221. Todd said,

    December 15, 2006 at 2:38 pm

    “But “baptizing in the name” is the more literalistic side of the coin, since that is exactly what we do during the rite of baptism – we baptize them IN THE NAME of Christ, not INTO Christ (the wording of Romans 6).”

    Uh oh, David. Time to brush up on your Greek. EIS. The preposition is the same in both Mt 28 and Rom 6. We are baptized *into* the name of the Triune God.

    http://www.biblicalstudiescenter.org/ecclesiology/transition.htm

    “No, an implicit reference, in this sense, to the rite is not OK. If the implicit reference means that you can impute all of the effects of the “thing signified” to the sign.”

    This is the opposite of WCF sacramental union. This is sacramental schism. Or something.

  222. ZJC said,

    December 15, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    Galations 5:14-15
    The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

    I”m not one who is taking any sides on this and it has been interesting/educational but at times I’ve had to winced. I think all of you can still make your points without the jester/sarcasm attached to it. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but it’s come down to just the three of you on this thread and I think many might have zone out because of the nature that this discussion has taken (just an observation). I’m not saying that one should end this discussion because it is important but maybe the tone could improve (I’d like to think that all three of you still consider each other as brothers in Christ)…just a suggestion. Or maybe it would be good to just step back and leave it with the thought that you will not be able to convince the other party and will instead use the power of prayer? :) You’d be amazed what prayer can do. As Paul states in Phil 3:15

    All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

    Cheers.

  223. Todd said,

    December 15, 2006 at 3:46 pm

    Good words, ZJC.

    Hey, here’s the audio for the Wlikins examination from this past weekend, about half way down the page.

    http://www.auburnavenue.org/

  224. Xon said,

    December 15, 2006 at 4:16 pm

    ZJC, I also thank you for the good exhortation. I am not entirely happy with every word I have chosen in this discussion. But it needs to be pointed out that only one side in this dispute is accusing the other of HERESY. There is an inherent tilt in this whole discussion away from civility on one side. Train wrecks, incompetence, not deserving of charity, etc. All this has been said by ONE side in this discussion. I admit to pointing out that sometimes when people make these accusations they end up sticking to the accuser. But that’s hardly an unloving thing to say, is it?

  225. Xon said,

    December 15, 2006 at 4:21 pm

    Actually, upon a bit more reflection, I’ve decided to bow out. I have to get some work done on my dissertation anyway now that finals are over.

    I’ll let my comment #216 above stand as a decent summary of the sorts of problems that have plagued the anti-FV argument throughout this conversation.

    Cheers, and just so we’re clear, I would happily meet up with David G. as a brother in the Lord any time he comes through Athens, GA.

  226. ZJC said,

    December 15, 2006 at 4:41 pm

    Hi Xon,
    I understand your point and I wish that who ever started this thread (too far to look up on who started this) would have titled it differently. God’s grace on your dissertation. I’m sure you’ll pass your defense with flying colors as I can see that you do put up a good fight. :) I don’t know if I would have lasted in the “battles of wits” with you. :) On the bright side…I have to admit you three were amusing at times. Can almost see you three as the “three stooges”…ok that’s a joke! :) Really, good defenses guys.
    In Christ…

  227. December 15, 2006 at 8:43 pm

    “We have an epistemological problem, a problem with knowing and understanding exactly how the elect and the non-elect differ from one another, because apparently God wants us to have this problem. God has not chosen to reveal this difference to us.”

    Wrong. The epistemological problem is in reference to our inability to discern ontological realities IN INDIVIDUALS and in Scriptural texts that talk about individuals. Our (in)ability to discern the ontology of individuals is because the phenomena of our experience with individuals is not in lock step with their ontology. But this does not justify agnosticism on the fact that the elect and non-elect have distinct ontological differences (MORE than just chronological form of ontological difference) that the Bible ascribes to them. We must affirm this ontological reality, in principle, of the two different groups, regardless of whether we can discern WHO (as individuals) is in those groups precisely (from the phenomena). HE HAS REVEALED what the differences are between elect and non-elect.

    ” But you say that he doesn’t REALLY distinguish between them qualitatively. He may say he does, but he doesn’t. Why do you say this? What is your basis for claiming what Wilkins ‘really’ believes? You quote a passage in which he speaks of a difference in duration! So, to make this extra clear to those playing along at home, because Wilkins says “A” in one passage, A is all he really believes.”

    When Wilkins was asked, point blank, what he thinks the differences are, he first responds with only 2 differences:

    1. He said there is a qualitative distinction. He then uses, as an example, the fact that the non-elect won’t be justified on the last day and the elect will be. So the difference here is one of timing, again.

    2. He says there is a difference in duration. Again, chronological.

    Where’s the beef, then? His affirmation at this point is still nothing more than formal (it exists), not substantive (it exists as X, Y, Z). Next he tries recruiting Leithart for some help here (see my comments below).

    But I know you’ll complain that a chronological distinction IS a type of ontological/qualitative difference. OK, fine. But this is not the sorts of ontological/qualitative differences our confessions speak of. He has not gone far enough, even though he was given the chance.

    Our confessions speak of the distinction in terms of ontological categories like regeneration, justification, etc. etc. But Wilkins says that the non-elect have those, too, although in a different way. When pressed for “this different way”, all he can come up with, again, is that it doesn’t last. And around and around we go.

    “So, first of all, there is a difference in duration. But, second of all there is a difference in quality (in ontology) between elect blessings and non-elect blessing within the covenant. What is the nature of the qualitative distinction? Well, for one thing, the difference in duration!”

    And around and around we go some more.

    You mention that Wilkins draws in Leithart’s distinctions as support. He says, for example, that the quality of temporary faith is different from permanent faith. Good, but how is it different (other than one being temporary and the other not)? Even if this question were not begged, it still falls short of the specific ontological distinctions our confessions have in view (forgiveness, justification, regeneration, etc.).

    ” Westminster itself, even though it does not require an official appeal to Ephesians 1 et al, still insists on placing certain benefits with the finally elect only, and that FVers fail to give these particular benefits to the elect only. But again, Wilkins discusses this carefully in his answer. Westminster describes an “effectual calling” and a “justification” and so forth that only goes to the elect. But Westminster also defines “elect” as those who God has ordained to be finally saved.”

    You still seem to think that one can just swap out terms and definitions in Wilkins’ and WCF’s systems as they are derived from and interface with Scripture in order to cleanly avoid a contradiction of substance. But exegetical and dogmatic theology are not that cleanly separate.

    Let me use a concrete example to illustrate. Read WCF 11 on justification. It obviously applies this to the “effectually called” and cannot apply to the non-elect (because it says that this justification cannot be lost). Wilkins, ostensibly, would apply the term “justification” in SOME OTHER sense than this, right? WCF defines its term in terms of things like the pardoning of sins. But Wilkins ALSO uses that language as he applies it to the elect.

    And here is where the too-smart-by-half sophism comes bubbling to the surface. Supposedly we are to believe that he also uses “pardoning of sins” in a different sense, too.

    1. But if the term “pardoning of sins” has any meaning to it at all, how does it comport with what I already pointed out concerning the covenant members of, say, Romans 3 being under God’s wrath and displeasure? How have their sins been pardoned?

    2. Again, the best thing Wilkins can do is to throw in a chronological distinction again. But that doesn’t solve #1. And it does not, in essence, differentiate being “justified” from the definition provided in WCF.

    3. How can there be a distinction if Wilkins grounds his doctrine of assurance on this “covenantal” justification?

    4. If Wilkins insists on saying there is a mysterious distinction beyond this, then he has made a category that is useless from both a systematic and pastoral perspective. Ostensibly, pastoral concerns drive FV, but it doesn’t do anyone any good if you tell them they have something that is merely defined as “not something else”. The pastoral concern is a sham.

  228. December 15, 2006 at 8:53 pm

    Todd said:

    “Uh oh, David. Time to brush up on your Greek. EIS. The preposition is the same in both Mt 28 and Rom 6. We are baptized *into* the name of the Triune God.”

    My point was not a difference in preposition, but rather baptizing in the NAME. “In the name” is a public pronouncment – something the baptismal rite does. “Into Christ” means into a person – in a spiritual sense.

    “This is the opposite of WCF sacramental union. This is sacramental schism. Or something.”

    I’ve already defended my reading of WCF:
    ——-
    Perhaps I should be clearer – the “attribution” I was talking about is not the “attribution” term used in WCF.

    WCF is talking about “attribution” in language. I was talking about attribution in metaphysics.

    WCF’s point is not that we, in our dogma, can make a metaphysical connection between the baptismal rite and salvation, but that the Bible uses language which “attributes” the effects and names of one to the other. “The names and effects of the one” shows that WCF indexes the metaphysics to the spiritual reality, although, in language, it says that the Bible attributes it to the sign. Even Leithart understands that this is precisely WCF’s point. Perhaps you are even further “out there” than Leithart.

  229. December 15, 2006 at 8:57 pm

    Todd said:

    “Maybe we think we’ve answered this “gift of perseverence” argument in other things we’ve already said, if anyone cares to see it. Maybe we can interpret each other a little more charitably.”

    Maybe? Where?? Maybe not.

    Actually, NOT.

    That would involve you demonstrating, through clear sense and logic, how Wilkins could justify a laughably artificial hermeneutic that carves up Romans 8, Ephesians 1, and I Corinthians in such a way that all of the blessings with the GLARING exception of perseverance applies to non-elect covenant members but we can apply perseverance to the elect.

    That ought to be an entertaining project for you to work on.

  230. ZJC said,

    December 16, 2006 at 2:10 am

    David,
    I exhort you to think about what Todd means by “Maybe we can interpret each other a little more charitably.” While you’ve given a zealous defense, I think you’re points would have gone further home had it not been seasoned with insults.
    I’m a reformed baptist (and I hope you won’t attack me for that) and really have no stake at this. But out of curiousity I read through (not all…just couldn’t get through all of) this thread to see what the fuss was about FV. I see it’s gone downhill at this point and I guess it’s time for me to jump off this thread. Let me just leave you with this verse as “food for thought” having my inserts in parentheses since our discussions are not face to face:
    Ephesians 4:29
    “Do not let any unwholesome talk (typing) come out of your mouths (keyboards), but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (read).”
    God Bless.

  231. Todd said,

    December 16, 2006 at 5:46 pm

    The comment quoted in #229 is not one of mine. Just for clarification. Must have been Xon. Charity rocks, though. Sarcasm sucks. God help us all.

    About Matthew 28, David wrote:

    “My point was not a difference in preposition, but rather baptizing in the NAME. “In the name” is a public pronouncment – something the baptismal rite does. “Into Christ” means into a person – in a spiritual sense.”

    But the text does not say “in the name.” It says “into the name.” Right? “Into the name of Christ” is the language of Acts 19:5 as well. And the form is passive, of course.

    Continuing an old one: “The Bible doesn’t speak of covenant members as having “new hearts.” That is language the belongs to regeneration – a benefit given only to the elect.”

    For this claim you have produced one and only one passage, Ez. 36. But in order to use this passage for your purpose, you’ve had to ignore the way the passage actually works, and take one phrase out of context. It is a promise to the house of Israel as a whole. God promises a single new heart for the people, not a separate new heart for each elect member of that people. And this is one part of a much longer set of promises, of course:

    24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. 29 And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. 30 I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. 32 It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.

    It’s just not legitimate to take one phrase out of the middle of this passage, pretend that it’s about individuals rather than God’s people as a whole, and ignore the rest of the context. You’re not dealing honestly with the text of God’s word.

  232. Todd said,

    December 16, 2006 at 6:01 pm

    About baptism, David said: “In the context of Galatians 3, it is a work of man, just as circumcision was.”

    Hardly. Instead, our baptism is the way we know that we’re saved through faith. Check out the order of the reasoning, and the way the “gar” works:

    “25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 FOR as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

    But how can you say that baptism in Galatians 3 is a work of man, when you don’t believe that there is a reference to the rite, at least not foremost? Surely you don’t believe that the thing signified is a work of man! Please explain.

  233. pduggie said,

    December 18, 2006 at 3:19 pm

    “Into Christ” means into a person – in a spiritual sense.

    Christ isn’t a person in the ordinary sense.

    Christ is an office (messiah) and a corporate person.

    The “totus Christus” is Jesus + people.

    Christ is just as public as the trinue name. That’s one of the strengths of the FV: the public nature of the Christ and Church. A visible society with visible keys.

    Its one of the areas I think the WCF might lapse into incoherence when it speaks of the communion of the saints. An “invisible” perspective on the church implies that chuch member A only has “communion of the saints” communion with other elect persons. Is the differences in the quality of communion two elect persons have and an elect person and a future apostate really differentiable? Can we tell the difference now? Howso?

  234. December 18, 2006 at 7:13 pm

    “Hardly. Instead, our baptism is the way we know that we’re saved through faith. Check out the order of the reasoning, and the way the “gar” works:

    Yes, our spiritual baptism is the basis for our assurance in this, not the water baptism. Galatians never outright talks about water baptism in chaps. 1-3. But, by implication, water baptism is the logical counterpart to physical circumcision. Both are rites that, while instituted by God, is a work of man.

  235. December 18, 2006 at 7:15 pm

    “Christ is just as public as the trinue name. That’s one of the strengths of the FV: the public nature of the Christ and Church. A visible society with visible keys.”

    Interesting philosophical speculations, but you have departed from serious biblical exegesis here and importing a truckload of content that belongs to systematic theology.

  236. December 18, 2006 at 7:33 pm

    “But the text does not say “in the name.” It says “into the name.” Right?

    Yes, but, as you should know, the preposition “eis” is the same here. No difference there.

    “Into the name of Christ” is the language of Acts 19:5 as well. And the form is passive, of course.”

    Yes, and Acts 19:5 is talking about literal water baptism. That supports my point.

    ” But in order to use this passage for your purpose, you’ve had to ignore the way the passage actually works, and take one phrase out of context. It is a promise to the house of Israel as a whole.”

    Again, you are not only arguing against me, but against the WCF’s take on this passage. Not just as a proof-text, but in the very wording of the doctrine itself.

    I already addressed this. You can’t dismiss this as merely being corporate. Groups are made up of individuals, corporate Israel is not an abstraction where real individuals are not given new hearts individually. Earlier I stated it this way:

    Very often in the OT things that are said about Israel apply only to Israel, insofar as Israel is united by a common spirit (good or bad) and mind. This does not mean that everyone in Israel, without exception, will actually forsake idols, walk in God’s statutes, and loathe themselves for their sins. No commentator would argue otherwise. So this “new heart/new flesh” language applies to those who are not the exception – those who do forsake idols, etc. etc. Not to everyone, merely by being in the covenant.

  237. Todd said,

    December 18, 2006 at 9:05 pm

    “Galatians never outright talks about water baptism in chaps. 1-3.”

    David, do you disagree with the way the WCF uses 3:27 as a prooftext for its exposition of water baptism?

  238. Todd said,

    December 18, 2006 at 9:28 pm

    “Yes, but, as you should know, the preposition “eis” is the same here.”

    I’m sorry, David. I’ve lost track of this one. Eis in Mt. 28; where else?

    “corporate Israel is not an abstraction where real individuals are not given new hearts individually.”

    But why the singular “heart,” David? God could have said “hearts.”

    “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.”

    Also, in what way would a prophecy about individual regeneration await future fulfillment? In your view, were OT believers not regenerate?

  239. pduggie said,

    December 19, 2006 at 12:26 am

    I’m sorry, David, I don’t recognize the distinction youre making here, and I’m not sure just what it is you’re claiming other than “You’re not allowed to say that because I say so”

    Christ=Messiah=public figure= “public person” = federal head = stand-in for a body of folks=not so ‘mystical’.

    This is part of the FV background here. Leithart’s Against Christianity book was reamed by Sean Lucas over Lucas (mis)understanding of Leithart saying that salvation was not just predicated of individuals, but had a social dimension as well. A social dimension that ALL the baptized participate in.

    What is it like to live in a redeemed society? The only way to know is to be in a VISIBLE andf public one. All the baptized get to experience it. And that some fall from it condemns them further.

  240. greenbaggins said,

    December 19, 2006 at 9:13 am

    But the issue here that Lucas had (I’m sure) was the nature of what unregenerated baptized people had. Most conservative Reformed people (including myself, by the way) would acknowledge a corporate dimension, a horizontal dimension, to salvation. The elect are in communion with one another as they are in communion with Christ the Head. Furthermore, God can use the skills and gifts of unregenerate people in the church to edify His people. The whole question boils down to this: what do unregenerate members of the visible church possess? I would answer that they have *zero* ordo salutis benefits. This is why I would never use any of the ordo salutis benefits to describe what the unregenerate have. To claim that all these ordo salutis words have a further meaning in the Scriptures ignores other interpretations of those passages, and it misinterprets the warning passages. It introduces profound confusion into theology, since clarification has been so slow in coming (is the justification being talked about “covenantal” or ordo salutis?) FV proponents simply have to realize that people such as myself are going to get more than a little jittery when Steve Wilkins says things like “you can lose your salvation.” Sure, he would *say* that it is “covenantal” salvation that one loses, and that one cannot lose ordo salutis salvation. However, the benefits that he claims for this covenantal losable salvation (Todd, I have already provided abundant quotations for this claim, so don”t ask for them) impinge on the ordo salutis. This is his problem.

  241. Todd said,

    December 19, 2006 at 9:39 am

    But this kind of statement, Lane, begs the question about whether Scripture itself ascribes these “benefits” to the whole body of Christ, or just to the elect within it. You’ve asserted your view on this, over and over, but you haven’t proven it.

    I would say that the FV guys haven’t proven their view, either, by the way. The judgment of charity thing needs more attention.

  242. greenbaggins said,

    December 19, 2006 at 10:20 am

    Steve Wilkins has not even remotely proved that there is a separate covenantal justification that is outside the golden chain of Romans 8. If one is truly justified, then one will persevere. If someone does not persevere, then they were *never* truly justified. Wilkins argues in those pages of _Federal Vision_ in the 50’s, that people who will not ultimately persevere nevertheless have real justification (he uses the phrase “real benefits”). This breaks the golden chain in Romans 8. If someone does not persevere, then they were never justified in the first place. In no sense can unregenerate people ever be said to be justified. I take justification, because with regard to who has it, the Reformers were unanymous that only those with true faith had justification. True faith means that God has regenerated that person. There is no such category as an unregenerated justified person.

  243. Todd said,

    December 19, 2006 at 10:27 am

    Is my grammar wrong when I say “has proven”? Should it be “has proved”?

  244. Todd said,

    December 19, 2006 at 10:42 am

    The thing about Romans 8 is that it is addressed to the very same people as the warnings of Romans 11.

    “They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.”

    To whom is Paul speaking here? To those he describes as standing fast through faith. The “you” does not change referent. You stand fast through faith. If you don’t continue in God’s kindness, you will be cut off.

    Lane, would you argue that this warning addresses a null set?

    “This breaks the golden chain in Romans 8. If someone does not persevere, then they were never justified in the first place.”

    “Perseverance,” of course, has to be read into the golden chain in Romans 8. The popular reading of these verses–“And those whom he justified he WILL also glorify”–is not accurate. The text puts all these blessings in the already–“And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Whatever glorification is here, it is a present blessing for all those justified.

  245. pduggie said,

    December 19, 2006 at 10:51 am

    “The whole question boils down to this: what do unregenerate members of the visible church possess?”

    Well, that’s your question. The FVs question is “what is the pastoral wisdom we can take from the form of Paul’s addresses to the visible church in addressing our visible churches and building them up in the faith”

  246. January 3, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    [...] Why is the Federal Vision heresy, part 1? [...]

  247. February 5, 2007 at 10:59 am

    [...] I do appear to have been picking on a lot lately, wrote a short, two paragraph atricle entitled, “Why is the Federal Vision Heresy?” The second half of the article is as follows: The FV denies the distinction between the visible [...]

  248. FV said,

    April 20, 2009 at 8:34 am

    [...] is my introduction, part 1, and part 2. Then Scott Clark has an excellent introductory blog post on it as well. [...]


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